People with problems in the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract may be vulnerable to infection after ‘swallowing’ the Covid-19 virus, a new study has suggested.

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine found that patients with Barrett’s oesophagus* may be vulnerable to coronavirus infection from what they swallow.

Inside the oesophagusThe study discovered that although cells in a healthy oesophagus cannot bind to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, oesophageal cells from patients with Barrett’s are potential gateways for infection.

Published in the Gastroenterology journal, the study explains that in Barrett’s patients, the cells that line the oesophagus develop receptors that can potentially bind to the virus and become infected.

Dr Jason C. Mills, the study’s senior investigator, said: “There is no evidence yet that people with Barrett’s oesophagus have higher rates of Covid-19 or are at any greater risk, but part of the reason is because that hasn’t been studied. Now that we’ve connected these dots, it may be worthwhile to look and see whether people with Barrett’s have higher rates of infection.

“This study provides data to indicate that we need to take a closer look to investigate whether a substantial portion of the population may be susceptible to infection through what they swallow.”

Previous studies have looked at whether the usage of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) correlated with a positive Covid-19 test. As well as the suggestion, histamine H2-receptor antagonists or H2-blockers can improve coronavirus symptoms.

*(It is thought that long term exposure of the oesophagus to acid reflux (gastro oesophageal reflux disease causes Barrett’s oesophagus).

 

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