Coronavirus found in human faeces more than a month after patient tests negative

Coronavirus found in human faeces more than a month after patient tests negative

Scientists from the University of Stirling have warned that the findings indicate that coronavirus could spread via sewage

(Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Coronavirus has been found in human faeces, more than a month after the patient tested negative for COVID-19.

Scientists from the University of Stirling have warned that the findings indicate that coronavirus could spread via sewage.

Professor Richard Quilliam, who led the study, said: “We know that COVID-19 is spread through droplets from coughs and sneezes, or via objects or materials that carry infection.

“However, it has recently been confirmed that the virus can also be found in human faeces – up to 33 days after the patient has tested negative for the respiratory symptoms of COVID-19.

“It is not yet known whether the virus can be transmitted via the faecal-oral route, however, we know that viral shedding from the digestive system can last longer than shedding from the respiratory tract.

Scientists from the University of Stirling have warned that the findings indicate that coronavirus could spread via sewage

“Therefore, this could be an important – but as yet unquantified – pathway for increased exposure.”

In the study, the researchers presented the exampled of the 2003 SARS outbreak, when the SARS-CoV-1 was detected in sewage from two hospitals in China.

The team highlights that, as most coronavirus patients are asymptomatic, there’s a ‘significant’ risk of the virus spreading through sewers.

Coronavirus molecules

Meanwhile, they added that the structural makeup of COVID-19 suggests that the virus could remain viable in sewage for up to 14 days.

They explained: “The transport of coronaviruses in water could increase the potential for the virus to become aerosolised, particularly during the pumping of wastewater through sewerage systems, at the wastewater treatment works, and during its discharge and the subsequent transport through the catchment drainage network.

“Atmospheric loading of coronaviruses in water droplets from wastewater is poorly understood but could provide a more direct respiratory route for human exposure, particularly at sewage pumping stations, wastewater treatment works and near waterways that are receiving wastewater.”

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Based on the findings, the researchers are urging the UK government to invest resources into improving our understanding of the risks associated with faecal transmission.

They added: “Understanding the risk of spread via the faecal-oral route, while still at a fairly early stage of the pandemic, will allow more evidence-based information about viral transmission to be shared with the public.

“Furthermore, the risks associated with sewage loading during the remainder of the COVID-19 outbreak need to be rapidly quantified to allow wastewater managers to act quickly and put in place control measures to decrease human exposure to this potentially infectious material.

“At a time when the world is so focused on the respiratory pathways of a respiratory virus, understanding the opportunities for SARS-CoV-2 to be spread by the faecal-oral route must not be neglected.”


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