Bacteria that lurk in the intestines of patients with COVID-19 may play a role in how many patients develop the disease, according to a new study.
Although the coronavirus is primarily a respiratory disease, there is growing evidence to suggest that the gastrointestinal tract is involved, scientists at China’s University of Hong Kong have said.
The team examined samples from 100 patients treated in two Hong Kong hospitals to see how the so-called digestive microbiome could affect the recovery from the deadly bug.
“The composition of the intestinal microbiome is significantly altered in patients with COVID-19 compared to non-COVID-19 individuals, regardless of whether the patients received medication,”
“Based on several patients surveyed in this study up to 30 days after clearance of SARS-CoV-2, the intestinal microbiota is likely to remain significantly altered after recovery from COVID-19,” they said.
The researchers say that patients with severe disease show high blood plasma levels of inflammatory cytokines and inflammatory markers – and that there is a “significant involvement” of the gastrointestinal tract during infection, given the “altered composition of the gut microbiota.” in persons infected with SARS-CoV-2 ”.
Cytokines, which are molecules that allow your cells to talk to each other, play a crucial role in healthy immune function. However, too many cytokines can lead to what is known as a “cytokine storm.”
“These results suggest that the composition of the intestinal microbiota is related to the magnitude of the COVID-19 immune response and subsequent tissue damage and thus may play a role in regulating the severity of the disease,” they wrote.
The researchers also found that because a small proportion of patients show intestinal microbiota dysbiosis or imbalance, even 30 days after recovery, this could be a potential explanation for why some symptoms persist in what is known as long-term COVID.