The human gastrointestinal tract is populated with trillions of tiny living organisms called gut flora or gut microbiota.
The gut microbiota contains a series of good bacteria that are beneficial to the immune system.
There is a delicate balance between beneficial and bad bacteria which is important for immune function and regulation.
Dysbiosis is a condition that refers to an imbalance in the gut microbial community that would make individuals highly vulnerable to infections.
Gut dysbiosis seem to be also common in COVID-19 patients since many beneficial bacteria are missing in their gut, a study has found.
Many probiotics supplements which are designed to improve the immune system have potential drawbacks.
For instance, a large number of probiotics are destroyed by stomach acid, high levels of humidity and temperature, and have short shelf-life.
Besides that, not all probiotics can boost immunity against infections as well as the coronavirus disease.
Professor Francis Chan, the study’s co-author author, said:
“Gut health rules over the immune system of our bodies.
We must identify the composition of intestinal bacteria that helps maintain our defense.
From there on, we can modulate the gut microbiota to boost our immunity against viral and bacterial infections.
This will be a novel approach in the combat of COVID-19.”
The research team identified the missing good bacteria in patients with COVID-19 by comparing a range of microorganisms in their guts with healthy people.
They have then created a probiotic formula addressing gut dysbiosis in order to enhance immune defence against viral infections such as COVID-19.
They expect that this formula will be on the market shortly as a daily supplement to help the body fight off infections.
Professor Paul Kay Sheung Chan, study co-author, said:
“This is the first study in the world to realize that severe gut dysbiosis exists in COVID-19 patients.
Some commensal symbionts, generally good bacteria, were missing while other pathogens were increasing in the patients’ guts.
The condition prevailed even after patients had been discharged.”
The research team have designed a processing method for the probiotic formula to increase the quantity of live bacteria and also improve their stability.
About the author
Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.
The study was published in Gastroenterology (Zuo et al., 2020).