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It’s always a good idea to look after your gut microbiota – the diverse population of bacteria that reside in your gastrointestinal tract and interact with pretty much every other aspect of your health. An adult human is colonised by about 100 trillion microbes and collectively these can weigh up to a staggering 2kg! Over the last decade or so, research into the wide-ranging and crucial roles our gut microflora play in our health has accelerated dramatically and scientists now believe that the gut microbiota may even be as complex and influential as our genes when it comes to overall health and happiness!

Gut microbiota regulate innate and adaptive immune function
With all that said, it’s not surprising that during the last two years much research has been looking into the links between COVID-19 disease severity, symptoms of long COVID and alterations to the gut microbiota. There are many possible reasons underlying these potential links, not least because the gut microbiota plays a crucial role in regulating our innate and adaptive immune systems, including a significant role in balancing inflammation.

New study results
In one recent study published in BMC Medicine in January 2022, a team of researchers wanted to better understand the host-gut microbiota interactions in COVID-19. They characterised the gut microbial community and gut barrier function in 63 COVID-19 patients and 8 non-infected controls.

They found altered gut microbial composition in COVID-19 patients, characterised by decreased commensal species and increased opportunistic pathogenic species (dysbiosis). In addition, they found severe illness to be associated with specific microbial features, which were further associated with host immune response. For example, among other microbial features, they found a relative abundance of Burkholderia contaminans was associated with higher levels of inflammation biomarkers and lower levels of immune cells. They also found signs suggestive of gut barrier dysfunction from blood and faecal samples from COVID-19 patients.

The researchers concluded,

“that the dysbiosis of the gut microbiome and gut barrier dysfunction might play a role in the pathophysiology of COVID-19 by affecting host immune homeostasis."

The simple takeaway - look after your gut microbiota
It’s always a good idea to look after your gut microbiota, and as research into this fast-moving field continues to accelerate, the argument for doing so gets stronger every single day. So, what can you do? Take a look at some simple ways to support your gut microbiota here.

Sun Z, Song ZG et al. Gut microbiome alterations and gut barrier dysfunction are associated with host immune homeostasis in Covid-19 patients. BMC Medicine 20, Article number: 24 (2022)

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