When the COVID-19 pandemic had first struck the world, the initial symptoms which were commonly observed were fever, cough, and shortness of breath. As the pandemic spread, new symptoms were added to the list and now, as per the latest studies, it has been that there may be gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea and diarrhea, as well, which are not being paid attention to as COVID-19 is considered a respiratory disease only.

As per a recent study at Standford Health Care, researchers found that many of those who come in and test positive for coronavirus have also suffered gastrointestinal symptoms, like loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

The study was conducted on 116 U.S. patients who had tested positive for the coronavirus from March 4-24 and was published online on April 10 in Gastroenterology. The study had Gastroenterology fellows George Cholankeril, MD, and Alexander Podboy, MD, share lead authorship as co-authors, while the senior author was Aijaz Ahmed, MD, professor of gastroenterology and hepatology.

Of those being observed, 31.9% reported gastrointestinal symptoms, but they were mild.

“COVID-19 is probably not just respiratory symptoms like a cough,” Podboy said. “A third of the patients we studied had gastrointestinal symptoms. It’s possible we may be missing a significant portion of patients sick with the coronavirus due to our current testing strategies focusing on respiratory symptoms alone.”

A similar study in Hubei, China, was conducted where more than 200 people admitted to three hospitals were analyzed. Hubei is the province where the SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19 originated. The study found that in the mild cases of COVID-19, almost 1 in 5 exhibited at least one gastrointestinal symptom, such as diarrhea, vomiting, or belly pain, while a majority of them lacked an appetite.

“In our current cohort of patients, all patients had respiratory symptoms prior to the development of gastrointestinal symptoms,” Podboy said. “No patients had gastrointestinal symptoms prior to the development of respiratory symptoms or as their only manifestation of COVID-19.”

These studies stress that while those exhibiting the classic of coronavirus should be tested, those who are experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms- with or without the respiratory symptoms — should be tested as well.

“However, that may be a product of who we were testing. Currently, testing is only offered for patients that meet specific criteria — criteria that often require the presence of pulmonary symptoms.”

Coronavirus COVID-19 Doctors New York, USA
Representational image. Misha Friedman/Getty Images

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