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SARS-CoV-2 and the Role of Orofecal Transmission: Systematic Review

By Carl Heneghan, Elizabeth A Spencer, Jon Brassey, Tom Jefferson

Posted 10 Aug 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.08.04.20168054

Background How SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted is of key public health importance. SARS-CoV-2 has been detected in the feces of some Covid-19 patients which suggests the possibility that the virus could additionally be transmitted via the orofecal route. Methods This review is part of an Open Evidence Review on Transmission Dynamics of Covid-19. We conduct ongoing searches using LitCovid, medRxiv, Google Scholar and Google for Covid-19; assess study quality based on five criteria and report important findings on an ongoing basis. Where necessary authors are contacted for further details or clarification on the content of their articles. Results We found 59 studies: nine reviews and 51 primary studies or reports (one cohort study also included a review) examining the potential role of orofecal transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Half (n=29) were done in China. Thirty seven studies reported positive fecal samples for SARS-CoV-2 based on RT-PCR results (n=1,034 patients). Six studies reported isolating the virus from fecal samples of nine patients, one study isolated the virus from rectal tissue and one laboratory study found that SARS-CoV-2 productively infected human small intestinal organoids. Eleven studies report on fecal samples found in sewage, and two sampled bathrooms and toilets. Conclusions Various observational and mechanistic evidence support the hypothesis that SARS-CoV-2 can infect and be shed from the human gastrointestinal tract. Policy should emphasize the importance of strict personal hygiene measures, and chlorine-based disinfection of surfaces in locations where there is presumed or known SARS-CoV-2 activity.

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