The microbiota is the set of bacteria that populate our gut. A healthy microbiota with a rich population of bacteria is the basis of a healthy body. With regard to new coronavirus infection, previous studies had already hypothesized that the microbiota could influence the response of the immune system. Today, another research confirms this, going so far as to state that the state of health of the microbiota can also determine the severity of the new coronavirus infection, if the virus enters the body. This research is the result of the work of a Korean team and was published in the journal mBio (Kim, mBio, 2021).
What determines the severity of the new coronavirus infection once it has entered the body? Until now, scientists have observed that certain conditions such as age, obesity, diabetes and hypertension can play a role. All these conditions are often associated with an altered microbiota. Not only that, it has also been observed that intestinal symptoms are associated with complications in the evolution of viral infection. Therefore, it is possible that imbalances in the microbiota could also influence the course of the new coronavirus. The authors of the study believe that an unbalanced microbiota can in fact allow the virus to access the digestive tract and internal organs, which are more vulnerable since they have particular proteins on their surface, called ACE2, which are a target of the new coronavirus. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that it has been found that in COVID patients the microbiota is poorer than the microbiota of healthy people. In particular, there is a lack of some good bacteria responsible for the production of butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid, which plays an essential role in intestinal health since it strengthens the intestinal barrier by protecting this organ from external threats of pathogens. So this suggests that the behavior of the new coronavirus aims to weaken the microbiota so that the virus can also spread to internal organs. As the same author of the study points out, this hypothesis needs further confirmation but this would mean that a useful prevention could be acting on the diet guaranteeing a constant supply of fiber, probiotics and prebiotics in order to strengthen the microbiota and avoid, in case of infection, a more severe course. In any case, taking care of the microbiota has benefits not only in the fight against the new coronavirus, but also in the fight against cancer, depression and even neurodegeneration. Many more reasons to guarantee every day foods such as yogurt with probiotics, legumes, whole barley and wheat, fruits and vegetables such as bananas, artichokes, onions, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes and asparagus.