HEALTH AND SCIENCE

Poor gut health linked to severe Covid-19

The gut system consists of millions of microorganisms and bacteria which thrive in the digestive tract.

In Summary

• Bacteria found in the gut has been found to regulate genes that control our immune response to pathogens and viruses, in this case, Covid-19 included.

• A healthy lifestyle can help normalize gut flora. 

Healthy lifestyle key in maintaining a normal functioning gut.
Healthy lifestyle key in maintaining a normal functioning gut.
Image: Courtesy: Healthline

As the world continues to battle the Coronavirus pandemic, details have emerged of how the virus has contributed to the poor gut systems.

Research has indicated that an individual’s gut health at the time of infection, could impact the severity of the symptoms and long term effects of the virus.

The gut system consists of millions of microorganisms and bacteria which thrive in the digestive tract.

The study was published in Frontiers in immunology and done by researchers from King’s College London who looked at samples of the gastrointestinal tract from patients who died after being diagnosed with COVID-19 during the first wave of the pandemic.

While severe COVID-19 can lead to breathing problems and high fever, some patients can experience diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, which suggests the involvement of the gastrointestinal tract.

"This study shows that in severe COVID-19, this key component of the immune system is disrupted, whether the intestine itself is infected with SARS-CoV-2 or not.” Professor Jo Spencer said.

Bacteria found in the gut has been found to regulate genes that control our immune response to pathogens and viruses, in this case, Covid-19 included.

You've got a trillion friends in low places: Bacteria in the gut may protect against viruses by signaling their presence to your immune system.
You've got a trillion friends in low places: Bacteria in the gut may protect against viruses by signaling their presence to your immune system.
Image: Courtesy: NPRorg.

How it happens.

The virus altering the immune response of the body causes havoc, especially to a person whose gut health is poor.

“This would likely contribute to the disturbances in intestinal microbial populations in COVID-19 reported by others," Spencer added.

From the observation of the samples, they found the structure and cellularity in Peyer's Patches - a grouping of lymphoid follicles that lines the small intestines - had been altered independently of the local levels of the virus.

This included depletion of the germinal centres, which normally propagate antibody-producing cells, in patients who died with Covid.

This resulting poor local immunity could lead to a reduction in microbial diversity, known as dysbiosis.

Dysbiosis is what now results in symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, and indigestion, among others.

Researchers also noted that the findings suggest that oral vaccination may not be effective if the patient is already ill, as the gut immune system is already compromised.

"In the future, it will be important to understand factors driving such lymphoid tissue dysregulation in severe inflammatory responses," Professor Spencer said.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help normalize gut flora. 

Image: Courtesy: Gutidentity.com
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