Gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea, coupled with a fever or history of exposure to Covid-19, could indicate coronavirus infection in children, according to a new study. Published in the journal Frontiers in Pediatrics, the research also suggests that the gastrointestinal symptoms first suffered by some children hint at potential infection through the digestive tract, as the type of receptors in cells in the lungs targeted by the virus can also be found in the intestines.
In this study, the research team detail the clinical features of children admitted to hospital with non-respiratory symptoms, which were subsequently diagnosed with pneumonia and Covid-19. 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, four of the five cases had digestive tract symptoms as the first manifestation of this disease.
The researchers also link the children’s gastrointestinal symptoms, which have been recorded in adult patients, to an additional potential route of infection. 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 faecal-oral transmission. By highlighting these cases, the researchers hope that doctors will use this information to quickly diagnose and isolate patients with similar symptoms, which will aid early treatment and reduce transmission. In March, another study from China, published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology, found that diarrhoea was a prominent symptom among up to half of the patients with Covid-19 in Wuhan.