As researchers understand more about the coronavirus, they also unlock more understanding about how it reacts to humans.
Now, researchers have published a new study that suggests that gastrointestinal symptoms in children could indicate a COVID-19 infection. This is because the type of cells that the virus normally hooks onto in the lungs can also be found in the intestines. Author of this study, Dr. Wenbin Li, who works at the Department of Pediatrics, Tongji Hospital, Wuhan, China said, "Based on our experience of dealing with COVID-19, in regions where this virus is epidemic, children suffering from digestive tract symptoms, especially with fever and/or a history of exposure to this disease, should be suspected of being infected with this virus."
So why is this the case? The study looked at children that were admitted to the hospital with no respiratory symptoms, and later found out to be infected with COVID-19. Here's Li said, "These children were seeking medical advice in the emergency department for unrelated problems, for example, one had a kidney stone, another a head trauma. All had pneumonia confirmed by chest CT scan before or soon after admission and then confirmed to have COVID-19."
"While their initial symptoms may have been unrelated, or their COVID-19 symptoms were initially mild or relatively hidden before their admission to hospital, importantly, 4 of the 5 cases had digestive tract symptoms as the first manifestation of this disease."
"The gastro-intestinal symptoms experienced by these children may be related to the distribution of receptors and the transmission pathway associated with COVID-19 infection in humans. The virus infects people via the ACE2 receptor, which can be found in certain cells in the lungs as well as the intestines. This suggests that COVID-19 might infect patients not only through the respiratory tract in the form of air droplets, but also through the digestive tract by contact or fecal-oral transmission."
The researchers believe that by highlighting these specific cases that they can provide healthcare workers around the globe with a different perspective of infection that they could look out for in children. By doing this, and if doctors find more cases such as the ones found in the study, they could get ahead of infections in children that would then impact the overall impact and spread in their respective communities.
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