When the novel coronavirus emerged in Wuhan towards the end of 2019, it quickly spread throughout China. It went from being a Chinese health emergency to become a global health emergency. In weeks, the entire human race went into a pandemic frenzy with a lot of unknowns about the novel coronavirus.
The global health system was brought to its knees with the virus’s exponential spread. Initially, there were quite a lot of mysteries surrounding the virus, and in the realm of medicine, the unknown can indeed kill faster. For a virus that went from being in only China to being in 188 countries, this cannot approach with levity.
One of the early pieces of information about Covid-19 is that it’s a respiratory disease. While the lungs are the primary organ attacked by the virus, the rest of the human body and organs are immune from being affected. These include the digestive system, immune system, heart and blood vessels, and many others.
For this piece, we’ll assess the damage the human digestive system is susceptible to due to the Covid-19 virus.
How Does Corona Attack the Digestive System
What any virus does, is destroy healthy cells and duplicate itself in the human body. On a large scale, the covid-19 virus aims for the respiratory system; however, other organs are also at risk. Right from the initial Covid-19 victims in Wuhan, digestive symptoms were reported.
While respiratory symptoms were more pronounced among patients, there are also several instances of nausea, lack of appetite, diarrhoea, vomiting and other gastrointestinal symptoms. In a study in China, the rate of diarrhoea was as high as 35.0%. It is even proven that diarrhoea and other gastrointestinal symptoms appear earlier than respiratory symptoms.
Patients displaying gastrointestinal symptoms take a shorter time to admission when compared to those without gastrointestinal symptoms. One of the indicators of the severity of covid-19 is the presence of diarrhoea in patients. It was also proven that patients experiencing acute renal insufficiency have a higher occurrence of gastrointestinal symptoms.
According to guts experts, covid-19 clings to the body cells to launch an attack. To bind to the cell, the virus relies on ACE2, a receptor that is present in the lung cells. However, the ACE2 receptor expresses itself abundantly in the gastrointestinal tract. The virus finds its way into the digestive system through saliva. It’s not avoidable; once it’s present in the human body, we will always have to swallow our saliva.
More attention has to be paid to the digestive system in patients as the virus always deal a significant blow on the system. This position was established in a study by the American Journal of Gastroenterology, and it proves that gastrointestinal symptoms often endured longer than other infections. Patients suffering from diarrhoea experience the symptoms for five days on average.
How Corona Virus Manifest Itself in The Digestive System
On the surface, coronavirus expresses itself in the digestive system in the forms of lack of appetite, diarrhoea, vomiting and others. A study related to Stanford University stated that a third of Covid-19 patients experience gastrointestinal symptoms. This position was buttressed by another study conducted in Beijing, where it was established that about 3% to 79% of covid-19 patients experience symptoms related to their digestive system.
The following issues are digestive system related experienced by covid-19 patients;
Loss of Appetite
As much as 50.2% of Covid-19 patients experience loss of appetite at different levels of severity. One common characteristic of viral infection is lowered and a sudden loss of appetite. Covid-19 patients often suffer from the loss of the sense of taste and smell, which could aggravate the loss of appetite.
With anosmia and aphasia, patients could hate foods they use to love or lead to loss of appetite.
There is a strong link between gut microbes and the spread of the Covid-19 virus. It is also stated that patients exhibiting gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea may experience a more extended recovery period than others without such symptoms.
Therefore, stomach upset may be an indicator of the severity of the virus.
While sore throat is easily confused as a sign of cold and flu, this could imply having a throat infection that makes it difficult to consume food and drinks. This is due to the irritation of the passageway and creates pain during eating.
Just like the loss of appetite and diarrhoea, nausea isn’t naturally a covid-19 symptom. The occurrence of the symptoms started growing during the peak of the virus. However, nausea may mean that an individual has an active presence of the virus.
Usually, nausea precedes fever and other severe symptoms.
Other manifestations of gastrointestinal symptoms may include vomiting, gastrointestinal bleeding and abdominal pain.
Just as enough attention is paid to the respiratory system in covid-19 patients, caution should also be applied when treating those exhibiting gastrointestinal symptoms. It is observed that any part of the digestive system is vulnerable to the covid-19 attack. This scenario could even be more pronounced in individuals with pre-existing gastrointestinal diseases.
Summarily, we’ve established that the digestive system is susceptible to attack, just as the respiratory system. Moreso, gastrointestinal systems could even surface before other symptoms. Finally, a study even stressed that repurposed drugs used in treating covid-19 symptoms could aggravate the covid-19 gastrointestinal symptoms.