Gastrointestinal infection symptoms (severe diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain) have been reported in ~18% of COVID-19 cases, with viral RNA positive stool samples being reported in ~48% of all COVID-19 patients in a recent study.1 Of the 19 million individuals who are reported to have contracted COVID-19 in the United States, this would translate into 3.4 million patients having GI infection. Of the 81 million cases globally, it would be 15 million.
There is some evidence to support the view that the GI tract is a possible reservoir for recurrence and fecal spread of the COVID-19 virus as ACE-2, the entry receptor for COVID-19, is highly expressed on GI cells.1 There currently is no targeted treatment for COVID GI infections.
1 Gut Journal: Vol 69, Issue 6: 2020; Gut Journal: Vol 69, Issue 6: 2020; JAMA Network: Vol 3, Issue 6: 2020; Lancet Gastroenterol Hepatol: Vol 5, Issue 5: 2020; Cheung Gastroenterology: Vol. 159, Issue 1: 2020.