A study conducted by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention published this month in Environment International suggests that coronavirus could spread via the toilet.
The discovery was made when traces of SARS-CoV-2 were detected inside the bathroom of an unoccupied apartment in Guangzhou, China, back in February. The virus was detected on the sink, faucet, and shower handle of the long-vacant apartment, which was located directly above the home of five people who were diagnosed with Covid-19 just a week earlier. The study suggests that the airborne pathogen may have traveled upwards through drain pipes.
Tiny airborne particles, called aerosols that are created by the force of a toilet flush, were found 10 and 12 levels above where those with coronavirus lived. Two cases were confirmed on each of those floors. This raised concerns that particles from stool that contained the virus had entered into homes via plumbing.
SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted primarily through respiratory droplets, according to the World Health Organization. However, since the early days of the pandemic, Chinese scientists have said that the virus could likely be transmitted through Covid-19 patients’ stool. A separate February study revealed that 73 patients hospitalized with the coronavirus in Guangdong tested positive for the virus in their stool.
These new findings mirror the 2003 case of Hong Kong’s Amoy Gardens private housing estate, where 329 residents were diagnosed with severe SARS partially due to faulty sewage pipelines. Forty-two residents died as a result of the virus, which is also a form of coronavirus.
“Although transmission via the shared elevator cannot be excluded, this event is consistent with the findings of the Amoy Gardens SARS outbreak in Hong Kong in 2003,” Song Tang, a scientist with the China CDC Key Laboratory of Environment and Population Health, and colleagues wrote in the study, which cited unpublished data from the health agency.