Preprint Review Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Fecal Shedding of SARS-CoV-2 and Its Potential Role in Person-To-Person Transmission and the Environment-Based Spread of COVID-19

Version 1 : Received: 15 July 2020 / Approved: 20 July 2020 / Online: 20 July 2020 (12:02:45 CEST)

How to cite: Jones, D.; Quintela Baluja, M.; Graham, D.; Corbishley, A.; McDonald, J.; Malham, S.; Hillary, L.; Connor, T.; Gaze, W.; Moura, I.; Wilcox, M.; Farkas, K. Fecal Shedding of SARS-CoV-2 and Its Potential Role in Person-To-Person Transmission and the Environment-Based Spread of COVID-19. Preprints 2020, 2020070471 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202007.0471.v1). Jones, D.; Quintela Baluja, M.; Graham, D.; Corbishley, A.; McDonald, J.; Malham, S.; Hillary, L.; Connor, T.; Gaze, W.; Moura, I.; Wilcox, M.; Farkas, K. Fecal Shedding of SARS-CoV-2 and Its Potential Role in Person-To-Person Transmission and the Environment-Based Spread of COVID-19. Preprints 2020, 2020070471 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202007.0471.v1).

Abstract

The recent detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in feces has led to speculation that it can be transmitted via the fecal-oral/ocular route. This review aims to critically evaluate the incidence of gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, the quantity and infectivity of SARS-CoV-2 in feces and urine, and whether these pose an infection risk in sanitary settings, sewage networks, wastewater treatment plants, and the wider environment (e.g. rivers, lakes and marine waters). Overall, severe GI dysfunction is only evident in a small number of COVID-19 cases, with 11 ± 2% exhibiting diarrhea and 12 ± 3% exhibiting vomiting and nausea. In addition to these cases, SARS-CoV-2 RNA can be detected in feces from some asymptomatic, mildly- and pre-symptomatic individuals. Fecal shedding of the virus peaks in the symptomatic period and can persist for several weeks, but with declining abundances in the post-symptomatic phase. SARS-CoV-2 RNA is occasionally detected in urine, but reports in fecal samples are more frequent. The abundance of the virus genetic material in both urine (ca. 102-105 gc/ml) and feces (ca. 102-107 gc/ml) is much lower than in nasopharyngeal fluids (ca. 105-1011 gc/ml). There is strong evidence of multiplication of SARS-CoV-2 in the GI tract and infectious virus has occasionally been recovered from both urine and stool samples. The level and infectious capability of SARS-CoV-2 in vomit remain unknown. In comparison to enteric viruses transmitted via the fecal-oral route (e.g. norovirus, adenovirus), the likelihood of SARS-CoV-2 being transmitted via feces or urine appears lower due to the lower relative amounts of virus present in feces/urine. The biggest risk of transmission will occur in clinical and care home settings where secondary handling of people and urine/fecal matter occurs. In addition, while SARS-CoV-2 RNA genetic material can be detected by in wastewater, this signal is greatly reduced by conventional treatment. Our analysis also suggests the likelihood of infection due to contact with sewage-contaminated water (e.g. swimming, surfing, angling) or food (e.g. salads, shellfish) is extremely low or negligible based on very low predicted abundances and limited environmental survival of SARS-CoV-2. These conclusions are corroborated by the fact that over eight million global cases of COVID-19 have occurred, but exposure to feces or wastewater has never been implicated as a transmission vector.

Subject Areas

bathing waters; coronavirus; environmental transmission; faecal-oral route; infection risk; waterborne illness

Comments (1)

Comment 1
Received: 29 July 2020
Commenter: davey jones
The commenter has declared there is no conflict of interests.
Comment: This is now in press in 'Science of the Total Environment'. It was updated with 40+ new references. If you would like an updated version please Email me: [email protected]
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