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The cases of COVID-19 have increased rapidly throughout the world, and as of 11 April 2020, more than 1.6 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and more than one lakh have died. 

All preventive measures such as enforcing complete lockdowns, physical distancing and maintenance of hand hygiene are being taken to prevent the spread of the infection. Despite all these measures, more new practices are being introduced as the situation continues to develop. Though most of the patients are presenting mild symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cough and difficulty in breathing, many people, especially those with some pre-existing medical condition show severe symptoms like extreme difficulty in breathing, persistent pain in the chest, a state of confusion (delirium) and bluish discolouration of the face and lips. 

Although the predominant symptoms of COVID-19 are respiratory, some people may also show gastrointestinal (GI) signs which can get neglected. Here in this article, we will tell you about the gastrointestinal symptoms of COVID-19.

  1. Does COVID-19 infection affect the gastrointestinal system of the body?
  2. What are the gastrointestinal symptoms seen in patients with COVID-19 infection?
  3. What can be done to prevent the entry of COVID-19 virus in the body?
  4. Doctors for Gastrointestinal symptoms in COVID-19

Studies have depicted that SARS-CoV-2 binds to the ACE2 receptors found in the cell lining of lungs, blood vessels, and the gastrointestinal tract. The virus enters the body through the mouth and nose and attacks the gut lining. Various previous studies have shown that COVID-19 virus can wreak havoc in the stomach and intestines. Doctors have also seen that people with gastrointestinal symptoms of COVID-19 have a poor prognosis as the virus penetrates to the entire gut lining.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, 204 patients who were admitted to the hospital in China with confirmed cases, 48 had digestive symptoms. Amongst those, 7 patients presented with only digestive symptoms and no respiratory symptoms.  

Infected patients of COVID-19 who had digestive symptoms were shown to have a worse prognosis than those who didn’t. One of the most common gastrointestinal symptoms was diarrhoea. Around 53.4% of the infected patients had viral nucleic acid in their stool samples. 

Another study was conducted in China which included 206 patients with the COVID-19 infection. Out of those, 48 patients presented only with digestive symptoms, 69 patients with both digestive and respiratory symptoms and the rest 89 patients had respiratory symptoms alone. The study further showed that patients who had digestive symptoms were admitted to the hospital much later than those with respiratory symptoms.

Many of the doctors stated that if the patients with gastrointestinal symptoms were admitted to the hospital immediately, they could have got time for early intervention and could have prevented worsening of symptoms.

The common gastrointestinal symptoms seen in patients with COVID-19 infection are:

These are the measures which you can follow in order to prevent the entry of COVID-19 infection through your mouth and nose:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a mask (either cloth or surgical or N-95) to prevent the entry of the virus, that might be present in the droplets sneezed or coughed by a COVID-19 infected patient.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water more frequently, especially before and after having a meal.
  • Disinfect the high touch surfaces of your house such as the doorknobs and the switches with either disinfecting wipes or a liquid cleaner.
  • Wash the fruits and vegetables thoroughly with warm water before eating them.
  • Do not eat raw food. Cook your food completely before eating it.
Dr. Abhay Singh

Dr. Abhay Singh

Gastroenterology
1 Years of Experience

Dr. Suraj Bhagat

Dr. Suraj Bhagat

Gastroenterology
23 Years of Experience

Dr. Smruti Ranjan Mishra

Dr. Smruti Ranjan Mishra

Gastroenterology
23 Years of Experience

Dr. Sankar Narayanan

Dr. Sankar Narayanan

Gastroenterology
10 Years of Experience

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References

  1. Cheung KS et al. Gastrointestinal Aspects of COVID-19. Gastroenterology 2020 Apr 3; [e-pub].
  2. L Pan et al. Clinical Characteristics of COVID-19 Patients With Digestive Symptoms in Hubei, China: A Descriptive, Cross-Sectional, Multicenter Study.The American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2020 Mar 19;[EPub Ahead of Print]
  3. Tian, Y, Rong, L, Nian, W, He, Y. Review article: gastrointestinal features in COVID‐19 and the possibility of faecal transmission. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2020; 00: 1– 9.
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