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In this article, we will be sharing more about probiotics, otherwise known as good bacteria. They can be found naturally in food like yogurt, kefir, kimchi and pickled vegetables. It has been shown to reduce diarrhoea due to virus infection and antibiotics consumption, and may even help with constipation.
What is Gut Microbiome
It has long been known that the human body is host to a wide variety of micro-organisms. The gut microbiome specifically refers to the micro-organisms that stays within our gut. It is an ecosystem consisting mainly of bacteria. There are also viruses and other microorganisms.
They call our intestines home. These microbes have a tremendous impact on our health. They play a vital role in educating our immune system, protecting our body against pathogens ( which are harmful external agents ) and contribute to our metabolic functions and digestion.
Gut Microbiome and our Immune System
Now that you know what the gut microbiome is, let us discuss more on the impact of the gut microbiome on our immune system.
A healthy immune system is one that can eliminate invading viruses and bacteria. When the delicate balance between good and bad bacteria is disrupted within the gut, gut dysbiosis can occur.
Causes of gut dysbiosis includes :
- Poor diet
- Stress disease
- Medical intervention such as antibiotics
Emerging evidence highlights a relationship between gut dysbiosis and the reduced immunity of our airways and lungs - and this special relationship is termed the gut-lung axis. The exact mechanisms are still not fully understood yet.
Gut dysbiosis has been shown to weaken our defence towards respiratory viruses like influenza A and the very common Respiratory Syncytial Virus ( RSV )
Gut Dysbiosis and COVID-19
Similar findings are also found in COVID-19 patients. Interestingly there is an ongoing study done in Hong Kong that was published on Gastroenterology journal on September 1st 2020.
15 covid-19 patients had their fecal microbiomes tested and compared with that of healthy individuals during their hospitalisation.
Gut dysbiosis was found in these COVID-19 patients, where higher levels of bad bacteria and lower levels of good bacteria were detected in their faeces.
Now, could that mean that gut dysbiosis could put them at a higher risk of getting COVID-19? Interesting thought for future research.
Gut Dysbiosis Treatment
There are various ways to treat dysbiosis. They include dietary therapy, Fecal Transplants and consumption of probiotics, prebiotics and symbiotic.
These treatments in general revolve around the introduction of good bacteria to the gut to restore the imbalance between good and bad bacteria.
Using these information , the Chinese University of Hong Kong ( CUHK ) has created a microbiome probiotic supplement formula and are currently conducting studies to test whether giving this formula can
Help COVID-19 patient recover faster and
Increase the chance of them developing antibodies to prevent future infections.
The initial study involved 25 covid-19 infected patients and preliminary results have been promising. Having said that, this is a study with a small sample size. They are now expanding the study and are recruiting more patients to draw more definitive conclusions.
Through recent studies, we are realising that the gut microbiome plays a bigger than expected role in our normal daily functions. The role of good bacteria in maintaining our immune system and health is important.
By : Dr Chen Yiming
Family Physician, MBBS (Singapore), GDFM (NUS), GDFP Dermatology (NUS)