For Some People, COVID-19 Might Spread Through Esophagus

Scientists came out with an assumption that some people might be in danger of COVID-19 infection by eating food through the esophagus.

Scientists from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis recently came out with an assumption that some people might be in danger of COVID-19 infection in an extraordinary way. . . and that is by eating food.

A BGR report said that researchers found something not applicable to all people who might have exposure to the virus. They examined those suffering from a specific condition known as “Barrett’s esophagus and develop cells” that can attach” to the COVID-19 virus.

Essentially, acid reflux, also called gastric reflux, can lead to long-term impairment to the esophagus, which includes the cells’ modification that begins resembling intestinal cells.

These said cells come with ACE2 receptors, so the infection could bind them while passing through the esophagus.

How the Virus Originally Spread

More than one year has passed since the first COVID-19 infection was confirmed, and thus most people should already know how this virus is spreading.

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Droplets and aerosol produced through coughing, sneezing, and talking can spread through the air and enter other people’s upper airways.

The virus also gets to enter via an individual’s mouth, nose or eyes and begins to spread in the local cell. Eventually, it gets to the lungs, the area where it’s doing the most damage.

This is why face masks, physical distancing, hand washing, and proper ventilation of indoor spaces are highly recommended.

Aside from this, there is also the danger of getting infected by touching contaminated surfaces, though both its aerosols and droplets are the infection’s main drivers.

Initial Finding About Food’s Linked to Spread of the Virus

During the onset of this pandemic, it was initially found that food is not spreading COVID-19.

Experts earlier said, the virus attaches to ACE2 receptors in a person’s nose and lungs, “but not in the digestive tract.” More so, stomach acid can kill particles that might be found in food.

Additionally, cooking food was also found to kill the virus. But still, health experts recommended that people wash their hands frequently when handling food products brought home before preparation of meals or handling deliveries.

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In the following months, health authorities, which included WHO, further underscored the notion that transmission via food packaging was implausible.

In a statement, Dr. Jason Mills said, “there is no evidence yet that people with Barrett’s esophagus have higher rates of COVID-19,” or are at greater risk, although partly, the reason is due to the fact that it has not been studied.

Barret’s Esophagus

Now that the dots have been connected, the Dr. Mills also said, it may be worthy to “look and see” whether those with Barrett’s are indeed having higher infection rates.

Those with Barrett’s esophagus are routinely taking a type of medication also known as proton pump inhibitors to suppress acid discharges.

Consequently, the acidity of the stomach is reduced, which could then lead to another side effect. More viruses might traverse through the stomach and eventually attach to receptors in the intestine.

Approximately one in five people in the United States is suffering from gastric reflux, although that does not mean they are all at risk of being infected by COVID-19 through food.

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The study authors have presented via lab tests that the virus can attach to modified cells in the esophagus. However, that’s not evidence enough that such it is really happening in reality.

Virus Attaching to Esophageal Cells in Barrett’s

It remains unclear too, what would take place if a person with Barrett’s esophagus were to get the virus via food solely, but not through the airways.

Researchers point out, though, that if an individual already has low virus levels in their respiratory tract, they are likely to swallow secretions that have the virus, which would bind to the “anomalous cells in the esophagus’ lower portion.”

Meaning, this person might turn sicker, although these are just speculations, and further research is needed. What the researchers had proven so far is that the virus can certainly attach to “esophageal cells in Barrett’s.”

Lastly, may patients with COVID-19 indeed develop gastrointestinal symptoms, which include diarrhea and abdominal pain. However, it is not clear if Barrett’s could affect such symptoms or increase the disease’s severity.

Originally published at Science Times 

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