Gastrointestinal Manifestations of SARS-CoV-2: Transmission, Pathogenesis, Immunomodulation, Microflora Dysbiosis, and Clinical Implications

Siva Sundara Kumar Durairajan*, Abhay Kumar Singh, Udhaya Bharathy Saravanan, Mayurikaa Namachivayam, Moorthi Radhakrishnan, Jian-Dong Huang, Rahul Dhodapkar*, Hongjie Zhang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The clinical manifestation of COVID-19, caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), in the respiratory system of humans is widely recognized. There is increasing evidence suggesting that SARS-CoV-2 possesses the capability to invade the gastrointestinal (GI) system, leading to the manifestation of symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and GI lesions. These symptoms subsequently contribute to the development of gastroenteritis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Nevertheless, the pathophysiological mechanisms linking these GI symptoms to SARS-CoV-2 infection remain unelucidated. During infection, SARS-CoV-2 binds to angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 and other host proteases in the GI tract during the infection, possibly causing GI symptoms by damaging the intestinal barrier and stimulating inflammatory factor production, respectively. The symptoms of COVID-19-induced GI infection and IBD include intestinal inflammation, mucosal hyperpermeability, bacterial overgrowth, dysbiosis, and changes in blood and fecal metabolomics. Deciphering the pathogenesis of COVID-19 and understanding its exacerbation may provide insights into disease prognosis and pave the way for the discovery of potential novel targets for disease prevention or treatment. Besides the usual transmission routes, SARS-CoV-2 can also be transmitted via the feces of an infected person. Hence, it is crucial to implement preventive and control measures in order to mitigate the fecal-to-oral transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Within this context, the identification and diagnosis of GI tract symptoms during these infections assume significance as they facilitate early detection of the disease and the development of targeted therapeutics. The present review discusses the receptors, pathogenesis, and transmission of SARS-CoV-2, with a particular focus on the induction of gut immune responses, the influence of gut microbes, and potential therapeutic targets against COVID-19-induced GI infection and IBD.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1231
Number of pages24
Issue number6
Early online date24 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology

User-Defined Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • angiotensin-converting enzyme 2
  • gastroenteritis
  • gut microflora
  • immune responses
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • pathogenesis
  • therapeutics


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