A study published Sunday concluded that researchers at Yonsei University in South Korea have found that certain commensal bacteria naturally present in the human intestine produce compounds that inhibit the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for COVID-19.
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 held Sunday through Thursday.
Previous clinical results showed that some patients with moderate to severe Covid-19 disease had gastrointestinal symptoms, while others only showed signs of infection in their lungs.
“We were wondering if bacteria in the gut could protect against invading viruses,” Muhammad Ali, a doctoral student at Yonsei University in Seoul, said in an ASM statement.
To pursue this hypothesis, the researchers examined bacteria dominant in the human gut for their activity against SARS-CoV-2.
The investigation found that Bifidobacterium, which has previously been shown to suppress Helicobacter pylori, which is responsible for many gastrointestinal infections and has been shown to be effective against irritable bowel syndrome, has this activity, Ali said.
The researchers also used artificial intelligence to search for potential disease-fighting compounds in databases of particles produced by microbes, and found that some of them may be useful against SARS-CoV-2.
To test our model, we used data from previous coronaviruses that tested several compounds 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 in the digestive tract compete with and that have previously been cleared of microbial secretions.
Muhammad Ali concluded by saying, “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.”