A recent study has found out that the severity of COVID-19 caused by the high-spreading SARS-COV-2 virus may be influenced by certain diseases that are associated with changes in the composition of the gut microbiome: diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, both in older people and younger individuals, as well.
What is the gut microbiome
The community of micro-organisms that live in the gastrointestinal tract is called the microbiome. It consists of bacteria, protozoa, fungi, and viruses. Their role is to maintain a healthy balance in the gut and supporting the immune system.
How is COVID-19 linked with the gastrointestinal health
The virus enters the body through the airways and it reaches even the gastrointestinal tract. From data gathered so far by doctors, we know that a high percentage of patients with COVID-19 experienced gastrointestinal symptoms, such as: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. This led the scientists to wonder what is the role of the gut microbiome in the progression and severity of the COVID-19 infection.
It appears that the immune system is constantly interacting with the community of micro-organisms that live inside the body, including the ones present in the gastrointestinal tract. This interaction is responsible for how the immune system adapts and learns how to respond to infectious microbes. Some of the micro-organisms have pro-inflammatory properties, while others have anti-inflammatory properties.
The imbalance of the gut microbiome (dysbiosis) is one of the causes associated with the metabolism dysregulations that often manifest themselves as diabetes or obesity, two factors that can increase the severity of the COVID-19 disease. For healthy individuals, the disruption of the gut microbiome may lead to abnormal inflammation in the body, and if they later get the virus, the severity of the COVID-19 disease is expected to increase.
The author of the cited study admits that:
Our findings suggest that, among healthy non-infected individuals, gut microbial features are highly predictive of the blood proteomic biomarkers of severe COVID-19 disease. The disruption of the corresponding gut microbiome features may potentially predispose healthy individuals to abnormal inflammatory status, which may further account for the COVID-19 susceptibility and severity. The fecal metabolomics analysis reveals that amino acid-related pathway may provide the key link between the identified core gut microbiota, inflammation and COVID-19 susceptibility. Furthermore, modifications on host and environmental factors are likely to influence the above core gut microbiota compositions.
Read the full study here.
Keep in mind that further research has to be carried out in order to fully understand what factors influence the severity of the COVID-19 disease.