The short answer is: so far, there is no clear evidence of transmission of coronavirus through feces and urine. Let’s first sift through some human poop facts that will help us understand this subject even better.
- Human poop comprises nearly 75% water
- The additional 25% consists of bacteria, proteins, fats, and other foods that could not be digested.
- It is bile and dead red blood cells that causes human poop to appear brown
- Less than 50% of humans poop once daily – what we call the normal poop cycle
- Digestive conditions such as giardia, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and celiac disease make stool smell very terrible
- Food lasts in the GI tract for about 24-72 hours. Diarrhea happens when food flows through the gut very quickly such that most water is not absorbed from it.
- Human stool coupled with poor personal hygiene causes transmission of many infectious diseases, including typhoid, cholera, polio, hepatitis, cryptosporidiosis, schistosomiasis, and ascariasis.
How bacteria, viruses, and parasites spread from feces to mouth
No one on earth will consciously eat human excreta. It all starts by not properly washing the hands after a toilet session. Given the germs are microscopic, they get deposited on household surfaces that the carrier touches. Other people touching the same surfaces are likely to pick the bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. And if they happen to touch their mouths or eat without washing their hands, the pathogens directly enter their guts.
In the same way, drinking water can be contaminated with fecal matter and pose the risk of transmission of infections. Eating raw unwashed fruits is also a potential route for infection. For active sexual partners that practice oral sex, disease-causing organisms may be directly passed from the anus of one partner to the mouth of the other partner. Lastly, swimmers should also be on the watch out since fecal matter can easily drop in the pool and be ingested if one happens to swallow that water.
With so many ways of pathogens passing from feces into the mouth, nose, and eyes, it pays to inquire whether the same can happen with coronavirus. The most common way of transmission of Covid-19 is from person to person through the direct exchange of oral and nasal fluids. Also, touching surfaces contaminated with such infected fluids and using the same hands on your face can lead to infection.
In examining whether Covid-19 can spread through feces and urine, two important questions arise:
- Can the SARS-CoV-2 virus be passed through feces and urine?
- How long does the SARS-Cov-2 survive in urine and feces?
We’ll answer these questions one by one.
Can the SARS-CoV-2 virus be passed through feces and urine?
Research shows that the stool and urine of some Covid-19 patients contain traces of the virus. In some patients, the virus comes out inactivated due to the harsh conditions of the GI tract through which it traveled from the time it entered through the mouth. Science tells us that the Covid-19 virus is non-enveloped – meaning it is less protected from factors such as high temperatures, acidity, and alkalinity. The coronaviruses can usually be detected in feces and urine 3 days after the actual infection.
In other patients, the coronavirus in feces is alive and viable. That means it has the potential to infect someone who comes into contact with it. However, up to now, no person has got infected with coronavirus through feces and urine.
How long does the SARS-Cov-2 survive in urine and feces?
Recent studies reveal that the coronavirus can survive in feces and urine for 2-4 days. However, this is still rare because of the delicate makeup of the virus. The SARS-CoV-2 virus dies off rapidly once excreted due to the above-mentioned factors. As the human excreta flows into the sewage collection area, oxidizing agents, high temperature, and low pH see to it that the virus does not survive for long. This is in contrast to the period of time the virus survives on other surfaces. For example, on plastic surfaces, it survives 2-3 days, stainless steel – 2 to 3 days, Cardboard – 1 day, Copper – 4 hours, Aluminium – 2 to 8 hours, Glass – 5 days, Ceramics – 5 days, Paper – 5 days.
How does this knowledge help us?
It is a big sigh of relief to learn that the Covid-19 virus has no proof of transmission through feces or urine. As previously hinted, the fecal-oral transmission never happens deliberately. Small sanitation errors can usually lead to contamination of food and water and subsequent infection. However, as further research goes on, it will be responsible of you to stay safe by upholding good hygiene.