After studying a total of 14 out of 138 patients (10 percent) with abdominal symptoms and loose stool in a Wuhan hospital, scientists discovered that this infection could be transmitted through faeces.
According to the Chinese authors in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), this is attributed to the fact that infected patients initially present with diarrhoea and nausea one or two days before developing fever and laboured breathing.
"Importantly, 2019-nCoV has been reported elsewhere in the faeces of patients with atypical abdominal symptoms, similar to SARS which was also shed in urine, suggesting a faecal transmission route which is highly transmissible," William Keevil, a professor of environmental healthcare at the University of Southampton said in a comment to the UK's Science Media Centre.
For Jiayu Liao, a bioengineer at the University of California, Riverside, "The 2019-nCoV virus found in stool may be transmitted through faecal spread."
He added, "We still do not know how long this virus can survive outside the body - HIV can only survive roughly 30 minutes outside the body - and what temperature range the 2019-nCoV is sensitive to."
Reacting to the new study, Benjamin Neuman, a virology expert at Texas A&M University-Texarkana, noted that faecal transmission is "certainly worth considering."
However, he maintained that "droplets and touching contaminated surfaces then rubbing eyes, nose or mouth" are likely the main path of transmission.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus continues to spread rapidly with the death toll at 910 and over 40,000 confirmed cases worldwide.
As of February 10, 2020, the deadly outbreak has officially killed more people than the SARS pandemic of 2003.
This used to be one of the worst medical crises in recent Chinese history.