Coronavirus may transmit through digestive tract, report finds

In addition to respiratory droplets, the novel coronavirus that has sickened thousands globally may also transmit through the digestive tract, specifically the fecal-oral route, according to a report.

Scientists from the Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University and the Wuhan Institute of Virology of the Chinese Academy of Science recently discovered “virus genetic material” in stool samples and rectal swabs from some patients, Chinese state media reported, according to Bloomberg.

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Some patients infected with the novel coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, had reported diarrhea when they first fell ill, and not a fever, which has been a more common sign of the pneumonia-like illness. The finding is significant because researchers have largely focused on transmission via respiratory droplets from an infected person.

The first of the now 11 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. had suffered from diarrhea before falling ill with the disease, according to Bloomberg.

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In general, human coronaviruses most commonly spread through the air, close contact with an infected person, and touching a surface infected with the virus before touching your face with dirty hands. However, fecal contamination is another possible way to transmit human coronaviruses, albeit rare, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As of Monday morning, there were six cases of the novel coronavirus in California, one in Arizona, one in Washington state, one in Massachusetts and two in Illinois. No deaths have been reported in the U.S. and the large majority of cases still remain in China.