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article imageStability of coronavirus in human excreta

By Tim Sandle     May 31, 2020 in Science
One of the less widely explored areas in relation to the novel coronavirus is with the survival of viral RNA in human urine and feces. A new study shows that the virus is recoverable several days later.
The new study comes from the Academy of Military Medical Sciences in China, and it finds that at room temperature, SARS-CoV-2 was stable on environmental surfaces and it also remained viable up to seven days on smooth surfaces (which supports earlier studies in relation to the coronavirus and surface recovery).
The study also found that the novel coronavirus could survive for several hours in feces and 3-4 days in urine. This supports another finding from the New England Journal of Medicine where urine and stool specimens were found to be positive with the virus from U.S. patients. Feces, in particular, seem to contain viral RNA in a high percentage of samples.
The implications of these findings demonstrate that SARS‐CoV‐2 can infect multiple systems, including the urinary tract. It could be that testing different specimen types could prove useful for monitoring disease changes and progression, and also for establishing a prognosis in relation to patient health.
It also follows that wastewater presents a potential risk. One study from The Netherlands found human wastewater collected from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol tested positive for virus RNA four days after the first cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) were identified in the country, on Feb 27, 2020.
While wastewater presents a risk, it may also act as a useful data source for assessing disease rates in the general population from a given area. Research, based on collected data from the U.S., and published in Science of the Total Environment concluded: "Depending on local conditions, detection in community wastewater of one symptomatic/asymptomatic infected case per 100 to 2,000,000 non-infected people is theoretically feasible." The main limitation is where temperature and in-sewer travel time impact upon virus detectability.
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