Gut microbiota composition reflects disease severity and dysfunctional immune responses in patients with COVID-19
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AbstractObjective Although COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory illness, there is mounting evidence suggesting that the GI tract is involved in this disease. We investigated whether the gut microbiome is linked to disease severity in patients with COVID-19, and whether perturbations in microbiome composition, if any, resolve with clearance of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Methods In this two-hospital cohort study, we obtained blood, stool and patient records from 100 patients with laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection. Serial stool samples were collected from 27 of the 100 patients up to 30 days after clearance of SARS-CoV-2. Gut microbiome compositions were characterised by shotgun sequencing total DNA extracted from stools. Concentrations of inflammatory cytokines and blood markers were measured from plasma. Results Gut microbiome composition was significantly altered in patients with COVID-19 compared with non-COVID-19 individuals irrespective of whether patients had received medication (p<0.01). Several gut commensals with known immunomodulatory potential such as Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, Eubacterium rectale and bifidobacteria were underrepresented in patients and remained low in samples collected up to 30 days after disease resolution. Moreover, this perturbed composition exhibited stratification with disease severity concordant with elevated concentrations of inflammatory cytokines and blood markers such as C reactive protein, lactate dehydrogenase, aspartate aminotransferase and gamma-glutamyl transferase. Conclusion Associations between gut microbiota composition, levels of cytokines and inflammatory markers in patients with COVID-19 suggest that the gut microbiome is involved in the magnitude of COVID-19 severity possibly via modulating host immune responses. Furthermore, the gut microbiota dysbiosis after disease resolution could contribute to persistent symptoms, highlighting a need to understand how gut microorganisms are involved in inflammation and COVID-19.
Acceptance Date16/11/2020
All Author(s) ListYeoh YK, Zuo T, Lui GC, Zhang F, Liu Q, Li AY, Chung AC, Cheung CP, Tso EY, Fung KS, Chan V, Ling L, Joynt G, Hui DS, Chow KM, Ng SSS, Li TC, Ng RW, Yip TC, Wong GL, Chan FK, Wong CK, Chan PK, Ng SC
Journal nameGut
Year2021
Month4
Volume Number70
Issue Number4
PublisherBMJ Publishing Group
Pages698 - 706
ISSN0017-5749
eISSN1468-3288
LanguagesEnglish-United Kingdom
Keywordscolonic bacteria, colonic microflora, inflammation

Last updated on 2021-14-06 at 00:09