Analysis of SARS-CoV-2 viral loads in stool samples and nasopharyngeal swabs from COVID-19 patients in the United Arab Emirates

Mariane Daou, Hussein Kannout, Mariam Khalili, Mohamed Almarei, Mohamed Alhashami, Zainab Alhalwachi, Fatima Alshamsi, Mohammad Tahseen Al Bataineh, Mohd Azzam Kayasseh, Abdulmajeed Al Khajeh, Shadi W. Hasan, Guan K. Tay, Samuel F. Feng, Dymitr Ruta, Ahmed F. Yousef, Habiba S. Alsafar

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was first identified in respiratory samples and was found to commonly cause cough and pneumonia. However, non-respiratory symptoms including gastrointestinal disorders are also present and a big proportion of patients test positive for the virus in stools for a prolonged period. In this cross-sectional study, we investigated viral load trends in stools and nasopharyngeal swabs and their correlation with multiple demographic and clinical factors. The study included 211 laboratory-confirmed cases suffering from a mild form of the disease and completing their isolation period at a non-hospital center in the United Arab Emirates. Demographic and clinical information was collected by standardized questionnaire and from the medical records of the patient. Of the 211 participants, 25% tested negative in both sample types at the time of this study and 53% of the remaining patients had detectable viral RNA in their stools. A positive fecal viral test was associated with male gender, diarrhea as a symptom, and hospitalization during infection. A positive correlation was also observed between a delayed onset of symptoms and a positive stool test. Viral load in stools positively correlated with, being overweight, exercising, taking antibiotics in the last 3 months and blood type O. The viral load in nasopharyngeal swabs, on the other hand, was higher for blood type A, and rhesus positive (Rh factor). Regression analysis showed no correlation between the viral loads measured in stool and nasopharyngeal samples in any given patient. The results of this work highlight the factors associated with a higher viral count in each sample. It also shows the importance of stool sample analysis for the follow-up and diagnosis of recovering COVID-19 patients.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0274961
JournalPLoS One
Issue number9 September
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


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