How Covid-19 Impacts The Digestive System

In late January 2020—when Covid-19, then known as 2019-nCoV, had yet to penetrate most national borders—a research paper was published in The Lancet medical journal detailing the symptoms of a cohort of 41 patients hospitalized in Wuhan, China. The study, though tiny in scale, went on to become the year’s most widely cited, and more importantly it established fever, cough, and fatigue as telltale signs of Covid-19. But it also mischaracterized one symptom as rare that we now know, in retrospect, to be common: diarrhea. According to the study, only three percent of patients—that is, just one of the 41—reported diarrhea, while 98 percent reported fever. Personal safety guidelines released by the CDC and other public health agencies early on in the pandemic reflected back this pecking order, as did their testing policies. If someone suspected they had Covid-19 but, for example, had only diarrhea and no fever, they were refused a test. Thankfully these protocols have since been revised; as of June 2020, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting—collectively referred to as gastrointestinal symptoms—were upgraded to the CDC’s official list of primary symptoms. In the popular imagination, however, Covid-19 is still thought of as a respiratory disease first and foremost, if not exclusively, while the pathology of the gut remains overlooked. Understanding the full extent of how Covid-19 manifests in the human body is critical to understanding how to treat it, particularly in so-called long haulers who harbor the virus for months. Infection of the gut also has serious implications for transmission—a factor that demands consideration if we’re intent on controlling and eventually eliminating this disease once and for all. Read full article on Forbes Originally published on Forbes (April 23, 2021)
© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.