With no classical COVID-19 symptoms such as coughing and difficulties breathing five children that went to the Wuhan Children’s Hospital between 23 January and 20 February 2020 with gastrointestinal symptoms turned out to be infected with the coronavirus. However because this Chinese study relied on only five young patients more studies are needed to come up with a definite conclusion.
Children with gastrointestinal symptoms without associated breathing difficulties could be infected by Covid-19, warns a new Chinese study. The study published in Frontiers in Pediatrics suggests that children who are hospitalized for non-respiratory symptoms can still be diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2.
“Most children are only marginally affected by Covid-19 and the few severe cases often have underlying health problems. It is easy to miss the diagnosis at an early stage when a child has non-respiratory symptoms or other illness,” says Dr Wenbin Li of the Department of Pediatrics at Tongji Hospital in Wuhan, China, and lead author of the study.
In this study, Dr. Li and his team described the clinical features of five children (2 months to 5 years) who were hospitalized with non-respiratory symptoms and were later diagnosed with pneumonia and Covid-19. One was consulted for kidney stones and another for head injuries.
An infection of the gastrointestinal tract
“Even though their initial symptoms may not be related or their Covid-19 symptoms may have been mild or relatively hidden before they were admitted to hospital, it is important to note that 4 of these 5 cases were the first manifestation of this disease symptoms in the gastrointestinal tract,” the doctors say.
The researchers are indeed finding a possible link between gastrointestinal symptoms in children and possible Covid 19 infection in the gastrointestinal tract as the first manifestation, since the type of receptors for the lung cells that the virus targets are also found in the intestine.
Although gastrointestinal disorders are effectively recognized as symptoms of Covid-19, they are characterized as “atypical” compared to the “classical” signs corresponding to a viral infection via the respiratory tract, such as coughing.
Although Covid-19 tests can sometimes give false positive results, Dr Li believes that the five children were infected with the disease. However, given the very small number of patients, the doctor warns that further research on similar clinical cases is needed to confirm the hypothesis of an initial manifestation of gastrointestinal tract infection in children.