New discovery of scientists: intestinal infections began to be transmitted by airborne droplets

Infectious disease doctor Nikolai Malyshev told what to do if he caught an acute intestinal infection on vacation

Infectious disease doctor Nikolai Malyshev told what to do if he caught an acute intestinal infection on vacation

A photo: Shutterstock


Summer is the hot season for virus pathogens acute intestinal infections (OKI). The very ones that make our stomach hurt, sick and covered with bouts of diarrhea. Among the main pests are two groups of AII culprits: rotaviruses and noroviruses. It was they who decided to study in depth the scientists of the US National Institutes of Health (National Institutes of Health).

New scientific work published in the authoritative international journal Nature and sheds light on the reasons for the super-infectiousness of “intestinal” viruses. In short, the essence of the discovery is this: the traditional “diseases of dirty hands” caused by rotaviruses and noroviruses are transmitted not only by the fecal-oral route. In addition to infection through contaminated vegetables, fruits, other products and unwashed hands, another way was discovered.

“We saw that these viruses actively replicate (i.e. multiply) in the salivary glands and spread through their secretions,” the study authors write. In other words, airborne infection is possible. Recall that it “works” not only when coughing or sneezing (these symptoms are just not typical for rota- and noroviruses), but also during long-term communication at close range.

We asked a well-known infectious disease doctor, Doctor of Medical Sciences, Professor of the Department of Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology of the Moscow State University of Medicine and Dentistry to comment on these data. A.I. Evdokimova Nikolay Malyshev.

“Keep your distance”

– Nikolai Alexandrovich, foreign researchers have come to the conclusion that rota- and noroviruses can be transmitted with saliva. The scientific article says that these are the results of experiments on mice. How likely is it that people are the same in this case?

– People can easily become infected with such intestinal infections by airborne droplets. This is a characteristic feature of the adaptation of viruses, the expansion of their transmission mechanisms. We have seen such examples many times. Let’s say the flu virus was found in the contents of the intestine. It turned out that in addition to the usual airborne route, they can also be infected by the fecal-oral route. When the first SARS-CoV appeared (the causative agent of SARS, the “brother” of the current coronavirus. – Ed.), At first, only airborne transmission was known. And then the virus was found in the sewers and completed the picture of its spread. And the Chinese presented the same data about the coronavirus: it is found in sewer washouts, where no one coughs or sneezes.

– It turns out that in order to avoid intestinal infections, one washing of hands and vegetables and fruits is not enough?

– Yes, it is important to apply another reliable method of prevention – social distancing. If you try to keep a distance of 1.5 – 2 m from people, you will avoid many infections.

– There is also barrier prevention – masks and respirators. It turns out that they have a double bonus: they reduce the risk of covid, and there is less chance of catching an intestinal infection?

– Of course. Now I advise everyone to wear masks in crowded places, especially on public transport.

– Many people think that in the heat a face mask will increase the effect of stuffiness and you can earn a heat stroke.

– These fears are greatly exaggerated. If you are generally healthy, there is no such threat. And if you feel uncomfortable, feel some kind of malaise, try to refrain from visiting public places where you need to wear a mask in the heat. Wait at home.


Rotaviruses and noroviruses account for 300 million cases of intestinal infections annually, according to WHO.

Children, as well as grandparents who caught the infection from them, suffer most and most of all. But for adults in their prime, these viruses can pretty much spoil their vacation by putting them in the toilet for 3-5 days.

“In Russia, rotaviruses and noroviruses are especially common in the south,” said infectious disease specialist Nikolai Malyshev in an interview with KP.


In the midst of the holiday season and summer holidays, acute intestinal infections (AII) become one of the most common causes of health problems. We asked Professor Malyshev to list the most effective first aid measures for the onset of AII symptoms. Recall that this is a triad of “nausea (vomiting) – abdominal pain – diarrhea.” The doctor also warned against common mistakes that could worsen the condition or interfere with further treatment.

1. Plentiful drink: yes.

The most important task is to prevent dehydration and make up for the loss of vital microelements (they leave with the fluid during diarrhea and vomiting). You can buy rehydron powder at a pharmacy, dilute it with water and take it in accordance with the instructions. This valuable tool was invented by the legendary Soviet epidemiologist Viktor Maleev to save cholera patients.

– You can also prepare a simple solution yourself: in one liter of boiled water at room temperature, dilute 1 tbsp. a spoonful of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt, advises Dr. Malyshev. – Glucose is needed to improve the absorption of salt. Drink little by little, as often as possible.

2. Enterosorbents: yes, but only if the doctor confirms their necessity and safety in your case.

These are drugs that bind, neutralize and remove harmful substances from the intestines. The most famous sorbent is activated carbon.

! Professor Malyshev advises not to use such drugs without first consulting a doctor. Since the symptoms of acute intestinal infections can be confused with some other diseases, in particular, with an exacerbation of chronic diseases of the digestive system. And in such cases, sorbents can be harmful. Therefore, at a minimum, call the emergency dispatcher on duty or the emergency room, describe the symptoms, and ask if an enterosorbent is recommended.

3. Antibiotics: no!

– This is one of the most common mistakes. In no case do not start taking antibacterial drugs on your own for acute intestinal infections, the infectious disease doctor warns. – On the one hand, AII is often caused by viruses, antibiotics are like pellets to an elephant. On the other hand, if the condition worsens, tests will be needed to find an effective treatment. And after taking antibiotics, it is extremely difficult to get an adequate result, to understand what you are infected with.

4. Antidiarrheal drugs: no!

There are many similar drugs, the instructions say: “antidiarrheal agent.” Such drugs inhibit bowel movements, which in the case of AII only harms, Professor Malyshev warns. The faster everything “flies”, comes out of you – the better. The main thing is to replenish the loss of fluid and important elements in time – see point 1 above.


Red flags: when to rush to the hospital

With such signs, you can’t stay at home and wait for relief – you need to go to the hospital or call a doctor at home:

– profuse diarrhea and vomiting – 3-5 times within a few hours;

– the appearance of impurities in the feces: blood, mucus;

– temperature rise above 37.5 degrees;

– tachycardia (heart rate higher than usual) or bradycardia (heart rate lower than usual).

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