Tue 09, Jun 2020

When gastroenterologist Dr Vincent Ho first heard about the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, he never expected it to be quite so related to his speciality. Gastroenterology is the branch of medicine that looks at gastrointestinal (gut or digestive system) issues.

“It’s actually had quite a considerable impact on gastroenterology because we do know that the gut is affected by the virus and we have seen a few cases where COVID-19 patients present primarily with gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea,” Dr Ho says.

However, diarrhoea is not one of the most common symptoms (fever, dry cough, and tiredness) of coronavirus. If you are experiencing diarrhoea, it doesn’t mean it is related to COVID-19. You should still seek advice from a health professional.

For up-to-date information on coronavirus (COVID-19), visit www.health.gov.au or phone the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080.

Did you know

The virus that causes COVID-19 is named SARS-CoV-2. A study in China that tested COVID-19 patients found this virus in their faeces (poo).

While this is interesting, Dr Vincent Ho reminds us that “just because the virus is found in faeces, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily infectious when shed from the faeces,” and more research is needed.

In the same study, nearly a quarter of patients tested positive for COVID-19 in their faeces after their respiratory (throat and nasal) tests were no longer showing a positive result.

Dr Ho explains the theory on why this may be: “Researchers believe the main reason that stool [faeces] tests can still test positive for coronavirus well after respiratory samples have tested negative is because of ongoing growth of the virus in the gut.”

Worldwide, researchers have been testing sewage and wastewater to locate SARS-CoV-2 virus hotspots.

This story was first published in Bridge magazine. Subscribe to Bridge online.