There is growing evidence that COVID-19 severity is influenced by our gut microbiome. Those who have high levels of beneficial, symbiotic bacteria in their guts tend to have better outcomes than those who have “dysbiosis” (unhealthy gut microbiomes).
A study in the prestigious medical journal BMJ explores this further:
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.
Having a strong microbiome appears to be key to avoiding a “cytokine storm” — a severe immune reaction in which the body releases too many cytokines into the blood too quickly. You can read more about that in this excellent opinion article published in Frontiers in Immunology.
The gut microbiota play an arterial role in maintaining immune homeostasis. The mucosal immune system, mainly the mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue such as gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) and bronchial-associated lymphoid tissue, is very important since it acts as the primary line of defense against infections.
Now, what’s the No. 1 thing that disrupts our gut microbiome? Antibiotics. Early on in the pandemic, 72% of all hospitalized COVID patients were being treated with antibiotics. Many are still being treated with antibiotics, despite the fact that COVID is a viral disease. I suspect that the overuse of antibiotics is contributing to the COVID crisis.
I have studied the microbiome closely for more than 10 years, and I believe it’s a hugely underappreciated factor in our overall health.
That said, I’m not a qualified expert or doctor. None of this is medical advice. But I’m consulting with doctors and scientists to learn more about this.
I will keep readers updated as I discover more about this important topic. To learn more about why I think startup investors should be watching microbiome research, check out this article I wrote last year.