HONG KONG and LONDON. Two studies published this year have revealed new data on the human gut microbiome. One of them linked the composition of the patients’ gut microbiota to how bad their COVID-19 case was. Another study found a link between processed food and the microbiome.
A study published online January 11 at Gut microbiota suggested that the gut microbiome influences the severity of COVID-19. Researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong collected blood and stool samples from 100 patients with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) infection in February and May last year.
The composition of the gut microbiome was significantly altered in COVID-19 patients compared with 78 adults in a control cohort who did not have COVID-19. Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, Eubacterium rectale and bifidobacteria, which have immunomodulatory potential, were underrepresented in patients with COVID-19.
Another study was published online on January 11 at Nature Medicine and the links have been identified between a person’s diet, the microbiome (microbes in the gut) and his health. Researchers examined 1,203 gut microbiomes of 1,098 people enrolled in the Personalized Response to Dietary Composition Trial (PREDICT 1) and identified microbes that correlate positively or negatively with an individual’s risk of serious conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
As an example of a positive microbiome correlation, rich Prevotella cover and Blastocysts the species have been associated with the maintenance of favorable blood sugar levels after meals. Subjects who ate a diet rich in healthy plant foods were more likely to have high levels of “good” gut microbes.
As an example of negative correlation, the researchers found microbiome biomarkers of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and impaired glucose tolerance, which are key risk factors for COVID-19. Diets containing more processed plant-based foods were more likely to be associated with “bad” gut microbes.
“We were surprised to see such large and clear clusters of what we informally call ‘good’ and ‘bad’ microbes emerging from our analysis,” said Nicola Segata, Ph.D., professor and principal investigator at the University of Trento’s Computational Metagenomics Laboratory at Italy and leader in microbiome analysis in research. “It’s also nice to see that microbiologists know so little about many of these microbes that they’re not even named. This is a big direction for us now, as we believe that in the future they may open up new insights into how we could use the gut microbiome as a modifiable target to improve metabolism and human health. “
The study involved researchers from King’s College London, TH Chan Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and the University of Trento in Italy.