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article imageIntestinal microbiome linked to COVID-19 severity

By Tim Sandle     Jan 15, 2021 in Science
The connection between COVID-19 symptoms and other underlying health conditions continues to be researched. A new finding draws a connection between symptom severity and intestinal health, in relation to the gut microbiome.
As an example of one of the connections between COVID-19 symptom severity and an underlying health condition, it as been established that diabetes can make the disease worse. This is possibly because the coronavirus triggers inflammation in the body and high blood (glucose) sugar levels also cause inflammation inside our body, hence the action of the virus exacerbates the diabetic condition.
With the new strand of research, scientists have examined emerging evidence suggesting that poor gut health adversely affects COVID-19 prognosis. Central to this the microbiome and the variations between the microbial communities in the gut between individuals. The human microbiome refers to the totality of microorganisms and their genetic interactions within a given niche.
The human body is an intricate system that hosts trillions of microbial cells across the epithelial surface, and within the mouth and gut. These microorganisms play a role in human physiology and organ function, including digestion and immunity.
The research finds that intestinal dysfunction appears to exacerbate the severity of coronavirus infection. This is through enabling the virus to access the surface of the digestive tract and the internal organs. These organs are, in particular, vulnerable to infection because the cells have ACE2 on their surfaces, which is the protein target of the coronavirus.
In terms of the cause, the researchers consider diet to be an important determinant. Of concern is the so termed "western diet", which is characterized by a diet low in fiber. A fiber-deficient diet is one of the main causes of altered gut microbiomes.
The research has been published in the journal mBio, and it is titled "Do an Altered Gut Microbiota and an Associated Leaky Gut Affect COVID-19 Severity?"
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