The COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the novel coronavirus, may reveal digestive symptoms, including diarrhea, according to a new study that may lead to better diagnosis of the deadly disease in patients who do not show respiratory symptoms to the viral infection.
The research, published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology, noted that nearly half of COVID-19 patients enrolled in the study presented digestive symptoms, such as diarrhea and loss of appetite, and cited them as their chief complaints.
According to the researchers, who were part of the Wuhan Medical Treatment Expert Group for COVID-19 in China, patients with digestive symptoms had a longer gap between the onset of symptoms, and hospital admission than patients presenting only respiratory symptoms.
In the study, they enrolled patients confirmed to have COVID-19 from three hospitals in Hubei province, and investigated the prevalence, clinical characteristics, and outcomes of COVID-19 patients with and without digestive symptoms.
The scientists assessed the epidemiological history, demographics data, clinical characteristics, laboratory data, treatment programs, and outcome measures obtained from the patients' medical records, and followed their health outcomes till March 5.
According to the study, 99 patients (48.5 per cent) were admitted to the
hospital with one or more digestive symptoms as their chief complaint.
Of these patients, it noted that 92 developed respiratory symptoms along with digestive symptoms, and seven presented with only digestive symptoms in the absence of respiratory symptoms.
The scientists said the patients with the digestive symptoms were less likely to be cured and discharged than those without them.
According to the researchers, "the index of suspicion may need to be raised earlier in at-risk patients presenting with digestive symptoms rather than waiting for respiratory symptoms to emerge."
However, they said further large sample studies are needed to confirm these findings.