WUHAN: Scientists at China's top research body in natural sciences have found another possible mode of transmission of the novel coronavirus which originated in Wuhan.
The virus, which has claimed the lives of more than 360 people in China, could be transmitted through the digestive system and into human faeces, according to scientists cited in a report by China's Xinhua news agency.
This means that the virus could be ingested through the faecal-oral route, where pathogens can pass through faeces and into the mouth of another person.
It may occur due to poor hygiene practices, lack of sanitation, pollution of soil and water bodies with faecal matter or contamination of food.
Experts from the Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University and the Wuhan Institute of Virology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences noticed that the initial symptom of some patients infected with the coronavirus was diarrhoea instead of fever, a more common symptom.
The research team found viral nucleic acids in patients' stool and rectal swabs, and believes that the novel coronavirus has certain faecal-oral transmission possibilities, in addition to droplet and contact transmissions.
China confirmed on Monday more than 17,000 cases of the coronavirus.
Most of the infections overseas have been detected in people who travelled from Wuhan, an industrial hub of 11 million people, or surrounding areas of Hubei province.
China has embarked on unprecedented efforts to contain the virus, which is believed to have come from a Wuhan animal market.