Researchers at the Department of Surgery and the Department of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, LKS Faculty of Medicine of The University of Hong Kong (HKUMed) collaborated with researchers in Wuhan to conduct a study on the symptoms of 244 children diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 mainly around the lockdown period in Wuhan from January to March 2020. The study specifically compared SARS-CoV-2 infected children presenting with gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms with those without GI symptoms. The findings are now published in medical journal Gut.

The study shows that GI symptoms were present in 13.9% of all SARS-CoV-2 infected children (compared to 11.6% in adults in a previous study), and that smaller children (two years old or younger) were more likely to have GI symptoms than older children. One particular result of interest was the high detection rate of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (about 35%) in the stool samples of 105 children-patients tested by RT-PCR; and the detection rate was also similarly high even in those without any GI symptoms and those who were completely asymptomatic.

“Taking other recent reports on finding live SARS-CoV-2 detected on electron microscopy in stool samples and elevated concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 detected in patients’ toilet areas into account, our study further strengthens that faecal-oral transmission remains a possibility. There is an absolute need for contact precaution when dealing with the excreta of COVID-19 children, whether they have GI symptoms or not. The public should remain on guard at all times,” said Dr Kenneth Wong Kak-yuen, Clinical Associate Professor, Chief of Division of Paediatric Surgery, Department of Surgery, HKUMed, who led the research.

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