According to new studies, the SARS coronavirus, and the receptor protein it latches on to in the host, are found in multiple organs throughout the body.
These findings imply that the SARS virus may be excreted in sweat, as well as urine and feces, the authors suggest.
Dr. Yanqing Ding and colleagues write in the Journal of Pathology, published online this week, that if the findings are verified, "new infection-control measures should be recommended," such as the requirement to wear gloves, disposable gowns and eye protection.
Dr. Ding, at First Military Medical University in Guangzhou, China, and associates examined tissues from four patients who died of SARS.
The SARS coronavirus, abbreviated to SARS-CoV, "was found in lung, trachea/bronchus, stomach, small intestine, distal convoluted renal tubule, sweat gland, parathyroid, pituitary, pancreas, adrenal gland, liver and cerebrum," they write.
The virus was not detected in other tissues, including spleen, lymph nodes, bone marrow, heart, cerebellum, gonads or muscle, reports reuters.co.uk
Doctors believe SARS, a respiratory disorder that infected more than 8,000 and caused 774 deaths last year, spreads mainly through infected droplets that patients cough or sneeze into the air. Findings by the Chinese researchers suggest the disease may spread through other pathways, including contaminated food, water, simple touching or kissing.
"If this transmission route is confirmed, new infection- control measures should be recommended," lead researcher Yanqing Ding said in the study. "Patients may have to wear gloves, disposable gowns and eye protection, in addition to N95 masks, and to avoid kissing or touching other people."
As expected, the virus was found predominantly in lung tissue of the people who died from SARS, the study found.
Although there is no direct evidence as yet showing that SARS can be food-borne, detection of the SARS virus in the stomach and intestine suggests "the gastrointestinal system may also be a primary target" of the SARS virus, the study said, inform bloomberg.com.