The microscopic organisms living in our intestines may influence the severity of Covid-19 and the body's immune response to it, and could account for lingering symptoms, researchers reported this week in the journal Gut.
"Although covid-19 is primarily a respiratory illness, there is mounting evidence suggesting that the GI tract is involved in this disease. We investigated whether the gut microbiome is linked to disease severity in patients with covid-19, and whether perturbations in microbiome composition, if any, resolve with clearance of the SARS-CoV-2 virus," said the team of researchers led by scientists from The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong.
They found that the gut microorganisms in covid-19 patients were very different from those in uninfected individuals. "Covid patients lack certain good bacteria known to regulate our immune system," said Dr. Siew Ng of The Chinese University of Hong Kong. The presence of an abnormal assortment of gut bacteria, or "dysbiosis," persists after the virus is gone and could play a role in the long-lasting symptoms that plague some patients, she said.
Associations between the gut microbiome, levels of cytokines and inflammatory markers in patients with covid-19 suggest that the gut microbiome impacts the severity of covid-19—possibly via modulating host immune responses.
To counter the lingering effects of gut disturbance after recovering from the disease, Dr Ng's team has developed an oral formula of live bacteria (probiotics) and a special capsule to protect the organisms until they reach the gut. "Compared with patients on standard care, our pilot clinical study showed that more covid patients who received our microbiome immunity formula achieved complete symptom resolution," Ng said, adding that those who got it had significantly reduced markers for inflammation in their blood, increased favorable bacteria in their stool and they developed neutralizing antibodies to the virus.
(With inputs from Reuters)