A new study by APC Microbiome Ireland, SFI Research Centre at University College Cork (UCC) has suggested that microbiota, metabolism and immune system communication are key to overcoming Covid-19.
The large international study of hospitalised Covid-19 patients suggested that the outcome of SARS-CoV-2 infection depends in part on the types of interactions occurring between the patients’ microbiota, metabolism and the immune system.
In this well-controlled study of 172 hospitalised Covid-19 patients from Cork, Geneva, St. Gallen and Ticino, APC scientists demonstrated that hyperinflammatory responses and metabolic dysfunction were exaggerated in patients with a specific type of microbiota, and these patients were less likely to survive infection with SARS-CoV-2.
The research findings could mean that high-risk patients could be identified earlier through microbiome profiling, and could be afforded greater protection from severe Covid-19 symptoms by boosting their immune system with appropriately selected probiotics and/or prebiotics.
The paper ‘A high-risk gut microbiota configuration associates with fatal hyperinflammatory immune and metabolic responses to SARS-CoV-2’ is published in the journal Gut Microbes and is co-lead-authored by Liam O’Mahony and Paul O’Toole, both professors in UCC. The research was supported by the SFI Covid-19 Rapid Response Research and Innovation Funding.
Prof O’Mahony said: “This study further demonstrates that the microbes within us are intimately connected with immune and metabolic health. We now need to investigate how to positively influence these connections before a person becomes infected to help reduce risk of severe outcomes to infection.”
Prof O’Toole said that the study adds another piece to the jigsaw puzzle that is Covid-19 research and that the results have provided a range of defined targets for interventions.
Vice president for research and innovation at UCC, Prof John Cryan, said: “This study has great significance in the progress to provide solutions to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Vital work is taking place at APC laboratories here in UCC and it’s making a real difference to understanding how to overcome SARS-CoV-2.”
The findings have been welcomed by the general director of Science Foundation Ireland, Professor Philip Nolan.