Beck-Friis T, Kärmander A, Nyström K, Wang H, Gisslén M, Andersson LM, Norder H
Gut Pathog 14 (1) 35 [2022-08-20; online 2022-08-20]
Little is known of possible selection and replication of SARS-CoV-2 in the intestines and if viral load in feces is associated with severity of disease. Therefore, sequence variations of the spike region in strains collected from feces and nasopharynx (NPH) from the same patients were compared. It was also investigated whether viral load in feces related to severity of COVID-19 in hospitalized patients. SARS-CoV-2 RNA was found in 88 (79%) fecal samples from 112 patients. The complete spike region could be sequenced in 15 fecal and 14 NPH samples. Fourteen Alpha-variants and one Beta-variant of SARS-CoV-2 were identified. The majority of the viral genetic variants (viral populations) in two fecal samples, but none in NPH, had a reversion of the H69/V70 amino acid deletion normally seen in the Alpha variants. Nine fecal samples contained up to nine minority variants, each which may constitute a separate viral population. Five NPH samples had one genetic variant each, and one NPH sample contained nine minority populations of SARS-CoV-2 spike genes. The higher genomic diversity of SARS-CoV-2 in feces compared to NPH, and the reversion of the H69/V70 deletion in Alpha variants from feces indicate a selection of viral strains and replication of SARS-CoV-2 in the gastrointestinal tract.