‘Microbiomes’ Might Influence COVID-19 Severity

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 13, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Bacteria in your gut may play a role in the severity of COVID-19 infection and the strength of your immune system’s response, a new study suggests.

Not only that, imbalances in the microbiome can cause persistent inflammatory symptoms, often referred to as “long-haul” COVID, the researchers added.

“The imbalance in the microbiome contributes to the severity of COVID-19, and if it persists after viral clearance, it could contribute to persistent symptoms and multi-system inflammatory syndromes like long COVID syndrome,” said the Principal Investigator, Dr Siew Ng, Professor, Institute of Digestive Diseases, Chinese University of Hong Kong.

“Restoring the missing beneficial bacteria could strengthen our immunity against the SARS-CoV2 virus and speed recovery from the disease,” she said. “The management of COVID-19 should not only aim to eliminate the virus, but also to restore the gut microbiota.”

The study, however, cannot prove that imbalances in the microbiome make COVID-19 more serious, only that there appears to be an association between the virus and bacteria in the gut, Ng said.

But it’s increasingly clear that gut bacteria are linked to inflammatory diseases, she noted.

For the study, researchers looked at blood and stool samples from 100 patients with COVID-19 and 78 people without infection who were part of a microbiome study before the pandemic began.

They found that in 274 stool samples, the gut microbiome differed significantly between patients with and without COVID-19, regardless of whether they were given medications, including antibiotics.

For example, people with COVID-19 had fewer types of bacteria that can affect the immune system response than those without infection. The reduced number of these bacteria was related to the severity of the infection.

In addition, the number of these bacteria remained low for up to 30 days after infected patients cleared the virus, the researchers found.

COVID-19 triggers the production of inflammatory cytokines by the immune system and in some cases this response can be excessive, causing widespread tissue damage, septic shock and organ failure.

Analysis of blood samples revealed that the microbial imbalance in COVID-19 patients was linked to high levels of inflammatory cytokines and blood markers of tissue damage, such as C-reactive protein.

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Jothi Venkat

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