The fecal–oral route (or alternatively the oral–fecal route or orofecal route) is a route of transmission of a disease, when pathogens in fecal particles passing from one host are introduced into the oral cavity of another host. One main cause of fecal-oral disease transmission in developing countries is lack of adequate sanitation.
The process of transmission may be simple or involve multiple steps. Some examples of routes of fecal-oral transmission include:
- water that has come in contact with feces (for example due to groundwater pollution from pit latrines) and is then not treated properly before drinking;
- food that has been prepared in the presence of fecal matter;
- disease vectors, like houseflies, spreading contamination from inadequate fecal disposal such as open defecation;
- poor or absent hand washing after using the toilet or handling feces (such as changing diapers)
- poor or absent cleaning of anything that has been in contact with feces;
- sexual practices that may involve oral contact with feces, such as anilingus, coprophilia or "ass to mouth".
The F-diagram about transmission routes and barriers
The "F-diagram" was first proposed in a publication by Hesperian Foundation for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 2005 and has been widely used in many other sanitation publications since then. It was set up in a way that fecal-oral transmission pathways are shown to take place via nouns that start with the letter F: fingers, flies, fields, foods, and fluids (fluids stands here for polluted water - be it polluted drinking water, surface water or groundwater).
One approach to changing people's behaviors and stopping open defecation, the community-led total sanitation approach, uses "live demonstrations" of flies moving from food to fresh human feces and back to "trigger" villagers into action.
Some of the diseases that can be passed via the fecal-oral route are:
- Ascariasis and other soil transmitted helminthiasis
- Clostridium difficile
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis E
- Norovirus acute gastroenteritis
- Rotavirus Most of these pathogens cause gastroenteritis.
- Shigellosis (bacillary dysentery)
- Typhoid fever
- Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections
- Waterborne diseases
- Conant, Jeff (2005). Sanitation and Cleanliness for a Healthy Environment (PDF). Berkely, California, USA: The Hesperian Foundation in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Sida. p. 6.
- Kal, K and Chambers, R (2008) Handbook on Community-led Total Sanitation, Plan UK Accessed 2015-2-26
- Meyer EA (1996). Other Intestinal Protozoa and Trichomonas Vaginalis in: Baron's Medical Microbiology (Baron S et al., eds.) (4th ed.). Univ of Texas Medical Branch. (via NCBI Bookshelf) ISBN 0-9631172-1-1.
- Zuckerman AJ (1996). Hepatitis Viruses in: Baron's Medical Microbiology (Baron S et al., eds.) (4th ed.). Univ of Texas Medical Branch. (via NCBI Bookshelf) ISBN 0-9631172-1-1.
- Wang L, Zhuang H (2004). "Hepatitis E: an overview and recent advances in vaccine research". World J Gastroenterol 10 (15): 2157–62. PMID 15259057.
- Intestinal Parasites and Infection fungusfocus.com - Retrieved on 2010-01-21
- Hale TL, Keusch GT (1996). Shigella in: Baron's Medical Microbiology (Baron S et al., eds.) (4th ed.). Univ of Texas Medical Branch. (via NCBI Bookshelf) ISBN 0-9631172-1-1.
- Giannella RA (1996). Salmonella:Epidemiology in: Baron's Medical Microbiology (Baron S et al., eds.) (4th ed.). Univ of Texas Medical Branch. (via NCBI Bookshelf) ISBN 0-9631172-1-1.
- Finkelstein RA (1996). Cholera, Vibrio cholerae O1 and O139, and Other Pathogenic Vibrios in: Baron's Medical Microbiology (Baron S et al., eds.) (4th ed.). Univ of Texas Medical Branch. (via NCBI Bookshelf) ISBN 0-9631172-1-1.
- Cellini et al. (1998). "Evidence for an oral-faecal transmission of Helicobacter pylori infection in an experimental murine model". APMIS 107(1–6): 477–484.