Monday, 25 January, 2021

COVID-19 Disrupts Gut Biome, Affecting Severity of Illness

Patient in a Doctors office Patient in a Doctors office. Getty Images
Gustavo Carr | 14 January, 2021, 14:25

Researchers say few studies have looked at the long-term health impacts of coronavirus as the pandemic is still ongoing globally. Researchers gave participants a routine checkup, lab tests, and put them through a six-minute walking test to gauge endurance levels.

New research shows that one particular bacteria residing in your intestines may be to blame for heightened COVID-19 symptoms. "In light of reports that a subset of recovered patients with COVID-19 experience persistent symptoms such as fatigue, dyspnoea and joint pains, some over 80 days after initial onset of symptoms, we posit that the dysbiotic gut microbiome could contribute to immune-related health problems post-COVID-19".

"Our analysis indicates that most patients continue to live with at least some of the effects of the virus after leaving the hospital, and highlights a need for post-discharge care, particularly for those who experience severe infections", said Bin Cao, Professor at the Capital Medical University in Beijing, China.

Fatigue or muscle weakness (63%) and sleep difficulties (26%) were the most common symptoms.

Nevertheless, they described the study by Huang and colleagues as "relevant and timely", noting that more than half of the cohort presented with residual chest imaging abnormalities and that disease severity during acute illness was independently associated with extent of lung diffusion at follow-up. From the over 1,700 patients involved, 390 also completed further testing to measure lung function.

In a Lancet commentary on the Chinese study, foreign scientists said it is rather surprising to find that some COVID-19 patients with good kidney health experienced lower than standard kidney function measured by the rate at which their kidneys are cleaning their blood, a key indicator of renal health.

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Almost 400 patients also underwent further tests, including an assessment of their lung function, and 94 patients whose blood antibody levels were recorded at the height of the infection received a follow-up test. Patients who were severely ill had reduced lung function, with 56 per cent of them requiring ventilation support.

To characterise the gut microbiome, 41 of the Covid-19 patients provided multiple stool samples while in hospital, 27 of whom provided serial stool samples up to 30 days after clearance of SARS-CoV-2.

"Because COVID-19 is such a new disease, we are only beginning to understand some of its long-term effects on patients' health".

Around 29 per cent of the patients required supplemental oxygen therapy whereas around 22 per cent of the patients did not require oxygen therapy.

The authors said this raises concerns about the possibility of Covid-19 re-infection, although they said larger samples would be needed to clarify how immunity to the virus changes over time.