The curious case of our microbiome and COVID-19 pandemic | Adamas University

Covid-19, Microbiome

The curious case of our microbiome and COVID-19 pandemic

Student Contributor: SHRESTHA SENGUPTA, B.TECH Biotech Sem-IV

The novel coronavirus first isolated and identified as SARS-CoV2 from Wuhan, China responsible for respiratory-related outbreak throughout the world. The pandemic situation compelled the countries and their people into self-quarantine to prevent further spread of infection. The absence of a suitable cure with the help of available drugs and vaccines, scientists, and medical professionals around the world are racing to unravel every biological aspect of SARS-CoV2.

Now, a group of scientist especially microbiologists and genetic epidemiologists are looking at COVID-19 problems from a different perspective. Our gut is home to a complex group of microbes or microorganisms collectively known as the gut microbiota. There are approximately around 38 trillion microbes we possess in our whole body termed as the gut microbiome. Research shows the massive size of the microbiome and its diversity can play a crucial role in leading a healthy life. One area of interest related to the COVID-19 pandemic is a cordial relationship between our gut microbiome with our immune system and its response. Professor Ronald Collman, from the University of Pennsylvania, thinks that our microbiome — the bacteria and fungi that live inside our body are playing an important role in balancing the host-immune response against viral infections. Also, Professor Tim Spector from King’s College, London highlighted the role of the weak microbiome for the excessive immune response against the novel viral infections which leads to the severe acute respiratory syndrome-like situation. Constant diagnostic tests that truly recognize the presence of bacterial or fungal infections and drug-resistant pathogens play a very crucial role in the public health response to COVID-19.

The collective genome of microbes is termed as the microbiome, containalmost150 times more genes compared to the human genome. The exact relationship between the human microbiome and our immune system interactions is not yet completely understood. Microbiome analysis of COVID-19 patient and cured person utilizing the metagenomics approach can reveal the important factors responsible for the development of immunity. Earlier studies proved the role of antimicrobial peptides as major regulators of innate immunity to control pathogen growth. An in-depth analysis of those peptides identified their origin from gut microbiota and uncover their mechanism in host defense against pathogens. Antimicrobial peptide secretion, inflammasome activation, and induction for host interleukin (IL)-22, IL-17, and IL-10 production are the general strategies executed by the gut microbiota for host anti-pathogen defense. Hence, microbiome targeted therapeutics can be used to minimize the pathogen infection and also its role in the outcomes of COVID-19.

(Figure adopted from Cheng et. al. showing the role of gut microbiota plays in the induction of antimicrobial peptides expression against pathogen and subsequent immune response.)

Keeping a healthy and diverse microbiome is an important element to fight against COVID-19. Eating a wide range of fibrous food from plants enhance microbial diversity. Further presence of natural yogurt and artisan cheese in our daily diet works as a supplement of microbes (probiotics). Activation of Vitamin A in the diet plays to help to keep our immune system healthy and also in its proper regulation. The constant immunogenicity support from our healthy microbiome can prevent an overactive immune response against an incoming pathogen. It is also being observed how the microbiome diversity declines as we get aged (mostly due to the age-related changes that occur in our immune responses). That may be a reason for the higher percentage of COVID-19 cases among elders. Thus a better understanding of gut microbiota of COVID-19 patients can open a pathway for a new type of antimicrobial drugs against SARS-CoV-2.

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