A new research study in Cork may be the key to identifying patients at high risk for Covid-19.
The study, conducted by APC Microbiome Ireland at University College Cork (UCC), shows that inflammatory reactions and metabolic dysfunction are excessive in patients with a specific type of microbiota – the microorganisms that live inside a person.
Such people are less likely to survive Covid-19 infection, the research found.
In practice, the research could mean that high-risk patients could be identified earlier by profiling the organisms in their body, and could be given greater protection against the virus through targeted treatment with probiotics.
The study, which involved 172 hospitalized Covid patients in Cork and Switzerland, shows that the microbes within each individual are “intimately linked to immune and metabolic health,” according to Professor Liam O’Mahony, one of the study’s lead investigators.
“We must now investigate how we can positively impact these connections before a person becomes infected to reduce the risk of serious outbreaks of infection,” he said.
His colleague and co-researcher Professor Paul Ross said that the research adds “another piece to the puzzle which is the Covid-19 research”.
“It is brilliant to see that this research has delivered such valuable and tangible scientific results,” said Professor Ross.
Professor Philip Nolan, former Head of Modeling at NPHET and now Director-General of the Science Foundation Ireland, APCs sponsor, said the research results provide “new lessons about Covid-19” and showed “the continued important role of research in tackling the pandemic”.
The study itself identified distinct cell characteristics among the patients who succumbed to the virus, compared with those with severe but non-fatal symptoms and those who had a mild or moderate form of the disease and who had subsequently recovered.
It noted that although some factors are associated with increased susceptibility to severe Covid-19 disease – such as age, male gender and conditions such as obesity and diabetes – the microorganisms that underlie various types of Covid-19 reactions are “poorly understood”. “.
The research found that those with mild Covid-19 followed distinctive patterns – they were younger, more likely to be women, less likely to be overweight and required fewer medications.
However, those who died of the disease and those who suffered from severe disease had no such distinguishing factors.
In contrast, those who died clearly showed different levels of 8 separate immune mediators – proteins produced inside the body in response to a specific stimulus – compared to people who survived the infection.
Although the results of the study are particularly interesting in identifying people at increased risk of a serious infection, they can also serve to highlight the role of the microorganisms that live in everyone in modifying their immune response to Covid and other diseases.
“This study is crucial to the progress of providing solutions to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Professor John Cryan, Vice President of Research and Innovation at UCC.
“Vital work is underway at APC laboratories here at UCC,” he said, adding that research “makes a real difference in understanding how to overcome” the virus.
APC’s human microbiotan research is not limited to Covid-19. The center, which was first established in 2003, has recently conducted studies on the risk of diseases from colon cancer related to microbiotan, together with research on how these organisms can be “broken down” for new drugs, such as so-called smart antibiotics.
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