A newly published study by Ken Cadwell and Jonas Schluter in Nature Communications suggests that the gut microbiome may be related to the risk of secondary infections in COVID-19 patients. The study involved investigating mice, as well as stool samples from 96 people with COVID-19, in order to understand the connection between the gut microbiome and secondary infections.
The mice that were studied showed that infection with SARS-CoV-2 can lead to disruptions in the gut microbiome. This decrease in species diversity of the gut microbes, along with an increased number of mucus-producing goblet cells and a decrease in Paneth cells, made the mice more vulnerable to secondary infections.
The same findings were present in humans, as the stool samples from the COVID-19 patients showed that those with secondary infections were more likely to have less diverse microbes, and the same species infecting the patients’ blood were also present in the gut. It is possible that the decreased microbiome diversity and the presence of antibiotic-resistant species can increase the risk of blood-stream infections in COVID-19 patients.
The findings of this study may help physicians to understand which patients may be at the highest risk of secondary infections. This understanding can help to inform treatment decisions and potentially reduce the number of patients suffering from secondary infections. Further research is needed to validate these findings and to better understand the relationship between the gut microbiome and secondary infections.