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Coronavirus Infection and Gastrointestinal Tract

Coronavirus Infection and Gastrointestinal Tract

The coronavirus and COVID-19 weighs upon all of our minds. What concerns us most about getting COVID-19 is developing life threatening complications — like pneumonia and extreme difficulty breathing.

But what does gut health have to do with COVID-19 and the respiratory complications?

According to this recent editorial,”2019 Novel coronavirus infection and gastrointestinal tract,” in Journal of Digestive Diseases:

“In early February [2020], the guidance (version 5) established by the China’s National Health Commission and National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine recommended that in the treatment of patients with severe COVID‐19 infection, probiotics may be used to maintain the balance of intestinal microecology and prevent secondary bacterial infection.

In this editorial, the the researchers explain the mechanism of action. They describe how certain receptors (ACE2 receptors) which are abundant in the lining of both the lungs and intestines, are the possible route for COVID-19.

Part of the function of these receptors is linked to the microbial ecology in the gastrointestinal tract; mutations in these receptors express decreased antimicrobial function and show altered gut microbial composition. This information leads the authors to speculate that COVID‐19 may, to some extent, be related to the gut microbiota.

Gut–lung Crosstalk

The authors admit that the connection between the lung and the gastrointestinal tract is not completely understood. However, they explain that what is well known is that the respiratory tract houses its own microbiota, and that patients with respiratory infections generally have gut dysfunction or secondary gut dysfunction complications, which are related to a more severe clinical course of the disease, thus indicating gut–lung crosstalk. They observe that this phenomenon exists in patients with COVID‐19.

Numerous studies have shown that modulating gut microbiota can reduce intestinal inflammation and ventilator‐associated pneumonia, and it can reverse certain side effects of antibiotics to avoid early influenza virus replication in lung epithelia.

Preliminary, but Hopeful

That said, at this time there is no direct clinical evidence that the modulation of gut microbiota plays the therapeutic role in the treatment of COVID‐19, but they speculate that targeting gut microbiota may be a new therapeutic option or at least an adjuvant therapeutic choice.

“Although no specific antiviral treatment has been recommended to date, we speculate that probiotics may modulate the gut microbiota to alter the gastrointestinal symptoms favorably and may also protect the respiratory system.”

Gut Microbiome, Essential to Health, In General 

A healthy and diverse ecology of gut microbes is fundamentally essential to good health. In fact, when our gut health and gut barrier are compromised, we also have a higher risk of acute and chronic diseases.

If as Dr Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is correct, there will likely be a second coronavirus outbreak in the fall of 2020.

We will be better prepared with our ability to test and contact trace and hopefully be further along in developing a vaccine. But we can also prepare ourselves by addressing the health of our gut microbiomes.

Click if you would like a telenutrition information session focused on COVID-19 (novel coronavirus.)

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