Replacing Lost Bacteria Alleviates Long COVID: Study

A novel mixture of Bifidobacteria species taken as a pill was effective at alleviating several symptoms associated with post-acute COVID-19 syndrome (PACS), or long COVID, according to a Hong Kong study shared at the Digestive Disease Week conference 2023 in Chicago.

probiotics

Shared as a poster presentation, the study abstract validates previous research demonstrating that COVID-19 infections—and potentially the mRNA vaccines—may be depleting our Bifidobacteria levels. Another possible explanation is that preexisting low levels of Bifidobacteria may cause worse or lingering cases of infection.

The study included 463 subjects who had at least one of 14 common long-COVID symptoms four months after infection. Subjects were randomized and assigned either to receive an oral placebo or the oral microbiome formula called SIM01 for six months.

Authors said it’s the first randomized controlled trial that shows modulation of the gut microbiome—our symbiotic collection of trillions of bacteria, viruses, and fungi—can alleviate gastrointestinal and neuropsychiatric symptoms associated with long COVID.

SIM01 contains probiotics from the Bifidobacteria strains galactooligosaccharides and xylooligosaccharide, along with resistant dextrin, a soluble fiber. Fiber is a prebiotic, the food necessary for probiotics such as Bifidobacteria strains to metabolize and proliferate, and is often used in conjunction with probiotics.

After six months of treatment, the patients taking SIM01 had better improvement in symptoms of fatigue, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, digestive problems, and general unwellness than the control group.

SIM01 isn’t commercially available. Another Hong Kong study published in early 2022 used SIM01 for 28 days on 25 hospitalized patients, and it sped up antibody formation against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The study also reported a reduced nasopharyngeal viral load, reduced proinflammatory immune markers, and resolved gut dysbiosis, which is an imbalance of the microbiome.

Published in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the study used 30 patients as the control. Stool samples analyzed from the patients who took SIM01 and 10 control patients showed those taking the formula had a greater abundance of the strains of Bifidobacteria in their stool at weeks four and five, as well as an enrichment of commensal bacteria and lower levels of pathogens.

Another study of SIM01 published this year in Nutrients demonstrated that it can reduce adverse health outcomes in the elderly and patients with Type 2 diabetes by reversing dysbiosis, which is a common biomarker for long COVID.

Bifidobacteria are foundational to immunity and are believed to have many health-promoting properties such as strengthening the intestinal barrier, stimulating hormones, and keeping inflammation at bay. They are among the first bacteria to form the immune system in newborns.

2021 study on the lost microbes of COVID showed low bacterial diversity and depletion of Bifidobacterium genera either before or after infection was associated with reduced immunity and increased likelihood of symptomatic infections. Bifidobacteria was known to help reduce colds and influenza, even prior to the pandemic.

In November 2021, a study published in the International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology reported that 44 patients with moderate to severe COVID-19 infections who were given supplements with Bifidobacteria had reduced mortality and a shorter hospital stay.

A healthy gut microbiome plays an important role in battling viral attacks on the body, and it’s increasingly clear COVID-19 causes dysbiosis and prolonged symptoms associated with the microbiome. However, the vaccinations may be no better in protecting against microbiome damage.

One preliminary study suggests messenger RNA vaccines may also reduce Bifidobacteria levels by half, something Dr. Sabine Hazan, gastroenterologist and CEO of Progenabiome, discussed at length on Epoch TV’s “American Thought Leaders.”

Hazan and other researchers suggested in an April 2022 BMJ Open Gastroenterology study that individual stool microbiome analyses could be used as a tool to predict vulnerability to severe infection and reduce the COVID-19 death rate.

Reference:

Lau RI, Ching JYI, Wong MC, et al. Modulation of gut microbiome alleviates post-acute COVID-19 syndrome: a randomised, triple-blind, placebo-controlled trial (RECOVERY Study). Program and abstracts of Digestive Disease Week 2023; May 6-9, 2023; Chicago, Illinois. Abstract 913a.

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