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  • How The Wuhan Coronavirus May Spread Through The Fecal-Oral Route

    Thai doctors are also seeing success with a drug cocktail that might treat the virus.
    by Kate Borbon .
How The Wuhan Coronavirus May Spread Through The Fecal-Oral Route
PHOTO BY iStock
  • While it was initially assumed that the Wuhan coronavirus spreads primarily through respiratory droplets or direct contact, experts are now saying it could possibly be transmitted through the digestive system. What does this mean? 

    A Bloomberg report explains, “The pathogen might be transmitted along the fecal-oral route, not just from coming into contact with virus-laden droplets emitted from a sick person’s cough.”

    When a disease spreads through the fecal-oral route

    A disease spreading through the fecal-oral route means contaminated feces from an infected person are somehow ingested by another person, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of course, no one eats poop (sorry) deliberately. It is likely to happen when an infected person forgets to properly wash his hands after using the toilet. As CDC points out, anything this person touches afterward may be contaminated with germs.

    If 2019-nCoV can also spread via the fecal-oral route, surgical masks will do little to protect you against it — it is all about washing your hands correctly.

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    According to Al Jazeera, researchers from Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University and the Wuhan Institute of Virology of the Chinese Academy of Science, studied patient stool samples and rectal swabs after noticing that some coronavirus-infected patients exhibited diarrhea, instead of a fever.

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    Japan Times reports this finding is not surprising to scientists and doctors who are familiar with the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Around 10 to 20 percent of SARS-infected patients experienced diarrhea.

    The Wuhan coronavirus was also detected in the fecal material of the 35-year-old man who was the first confirmed case of the virus in the U.S. In a conference on Friday, January 31, Scott Lindquist, a state epidemiologist for infectious disease at Washington’s Department of Health, said of the findings, “That adds to the knowledge about this. It’s not only excreted in your respiratory secretions, it’s also secreted in your stool.”

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    Thai doctors see success in treating coronavirus with a drug cocktail

    GMA News reports that according to Thailand’s health ministry, doctors believe that a cocktail of antiviral drugs used to treat the flu and HIV could be successful in treating Wuhan coronavirus-afflicted patients.

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    During the ministry’s daily press briefing, Dr. Kriengsak Attipornwanich said doctors used a combination of the HIV medicines lopinavir and ritonavir (sold as Kaletra) and the anti-flu medication oseltamivir (sold as Tamiflu) on a 71-year-old patient. After 48 hours, this patient tested negative for the virus.

    “The lab result of positive on the coronavirus turned negative in 48 hours. From being exhausted before, she could sit up in bed 12 hours later,” said Kriengsak.

    According to Bloomberg, the doctors administered this drug cocktail because research indicated that it helped patients who were infected with the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). One study from France recommended that this drug combination be used on MERS patients but discontinued if the patient doesn’t have the flu.

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    That being said, Somkiat Lalitwongsa, director of Rajavithi Hospital in Bangkok, also said that there is not yet sufficient proof that the drug cocktail can treat the Wuhan coronavirus.

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    “There’s not enough evidence to support the effectiveness just yet,” said Somkiat, Bloomberg reports. “But we report to contribute to the medical community globally. The results look good so far.”

    Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III also said that the drug combination is still being validated by the World Health Organization.

    “Pinapa-validate ‘yan ng WHO sa kasalukuyan,” Duque said in an interview with Dobol B sa NewsTV on GMA News TV. “Wala raw malinaw na batayan para sabihan iyan kaya patuloy ang pananaliksik, patuloy ang pag-aaral ukol dito sa bagong development.”

    The WHO reiterates there is no specific medicine proven or recommended to prevent or treat the Wuhan coronavirus. It also discourages self-medication with antibiotics since these work against bacterial infections, not viruses.

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