It's Not Just A Respiratory Disease: How COVID Can Impact Your Gut
Much has been reported about COVID-19’s effect on the respiratory system. But it can also cause gastrointestinal problems.
Dr. Salma Saiger, a family care physician in Mesquite, is helping to recruit patients for a clinical trial into a treatment for COVID-related gastrointestinal issues.
KERA's Sam Baker talked with Dr. Saiger about what she’s seen among her patients.
Diarrhea And COVID:
In my practice, we are seeing close to 50% of patients having diarrhea as one of their symptoms with COVID. Also, cramps associated with diarrhea or abdominal pain.
The scientific evidence is there that one of the symptoms of COVID is diarrhea. Close to 60% of people who are having long bouts of COVID are still complaining of diarrhea up to six months after having COVID.
Can GI Issues Contribute To The Severity Of COVID?
It does make it worse. Imagine you're having COVID, but you're having diarrhea, too, with it. The possible dehydration, lack of energy, fatigue, and lack of potassium and electrolytes could damage your immune system. Also, it makes your recovery very hard and makes the patient very weak.
How GI Symptoms Are Linked to COVID
This bacteria can infect your intestinal linings, too. It disturbs the normal flora, the normal bacteria in your summit. And that's how it causes diarrhea.
Why GI Symptoms Are Mentioned Less Than Respiratory
Everybody's more interested in their shortness of breath and their lack of sense of smell and all those sorts of things.
But when we started asking patients if they have a cold, cough, runny nose? Do you have a sore throat, diarrhea? That's when we started to see that every other person is complaining of diarrhea. That yes, I'm having three bowel movements in half a day period, sort of a thing. So it is one of those underreported symptoms.
Maybe because the upper respiratory symptoms are a little bit more troublesome. You can get into more shortness of breath and can go into ICU settings, where ventilators or oxygen is needed. They're more worried about the upper respiratory symptoms.
There's symptomatic care: Pepto-Bismol, Imodium, medications over the counter. Otherwise, there's no approved medication for the intestinal infection of COVID to make sure that this gets eradicated from their system.
We’re testing a treatment for the intestinal infection of COVID. Niclosamide has been on the market for many years. It's been used on close to a million patients for different indications of diarrhea. So it has a safety profile but has never been looked at in big clinical trials for COVID-19.
The initial evidence suggests that it has anti-COVID activity. It has an entire viral antioxidant activity against COVID. So that's why we are doing more trials to find out more about its efficacy and safety in the COVID-19 patients.
Interview highlights were lightly edited for clarity.
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