Researchers at Yonsei University in South Korea have found that some commensal bacteria naturally present in the human gut produce compounds that inhibit the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for COVID-19, concludes a study published Sunday.
The research was presented at the World Microbiome Forum, an online meeting of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), the European Federation of Microbiological Societies (FEMS) and several others, which runs Sunday through Thursday.
Previous clinical results showed that some patients with Covid-19 disease, in its moderate to severe form, have gastrointestinal symptoms, while others show signs of infection in the lungs only.
“We asked ourselves whether bacteria in the gut could protect against virus invasion,” Muhammad Ali, a doctoral student at Yonsei University in Seoul, said in an ASM statement.
To investigate this hypothesis, the researchers examined the bacteria prevalent in the human gut for their activity against SARS-CoV-2.
The investigation revealed that the Bifidobacterium, which had previously shown its ability to suppress Helicobacter pylori, responsible for many gastrointestinal infections, and had been shown to be effective against irritable bowel syndrome, had this activity, Ali said.
The researchers also used artificial intelligence to search for potential disease-fighting compounds in databases of molecules produced by microbes, and found that some of them may be useful against SARS-CoV-2.
“To test our model, we made use of data from previous coronaviruses, in which several compounds have been tested against coronaviruses. This approach appears to be important because these targets share characteristics with SARS-CoV-2,” Ali explained.
The researcher also highlighted the ecological nature of his approach in this research, noting that many of the existing antibiotics and cancer treatments are compounds that bacteria use to compete with each other in the digestive tract that have previously been purified from microbial secretions.
Muhammad Ali concluded, “Finding microbes that secrete molecules that can suppress coronaviruses would be a promising way to develop natural or synthetic probiotics to expand our therapeutic prevention techniques to provide a more sustainable way to combat viral infections.”