Gut Microbiome Disrupted by SARS-CoV-2 - Study by Italian Dr. Carlo Brogna
Italian researchers have discovered a whole new act in the SARS-CoV-2 saga starring the secret world inside your gut. Yes, the same people who brought us Snake Venom have another paper all about poo.
The microbiome is like a whole universe of bacteria that live in and outside our bodies. Although scientists have been researching it for 350 years, it is only recently that mainstream medicine has started to understand the importance of its role in our overall health.
The microbiome is made up of bacteria, some of which are helpful, and some harmful, but normally there is a balance between them. So when a virus, like SARS-CoV-2 disrupts the good bacteria, we can have unwanted effects, and that is significant for our understanding of the nature of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Here is Dr. Mobeen Syed’s video discussion on the subject:
Seriously folks, this is a really good study…read on
Dr. Carlo Brogna and his colleagues, the authors of this paper, used immunofluorescence and electron microscopy of the bacteria present in stool samples of SARS-CoV-2 patients and healthy controls to determine if the proteins from the virus could be found inside the bacteria. And they proved it… they saw SARS-COV-2 in the bacteria, which indicates that the virus has the potential to disrupt the microbiome of the gut.
That means SARS-CoV-2 is a bacteriophage! “Who knew?” (anon)
A bacteriophage is a virus that can infect a bacteria.
(Bacteriophage)viruses have long been considered neutral to animals and humans because specific receptors for bacteriophages on eukaryotic cells are lacking… The aim of our study was to elucidate the interaction between SARS-CoV-2 and human gut microbiota. The data will help to suggest specific therapeutic approaches to support the current vaccines and improve the vaccination campaign.(emph mine)1
Before we go down that rabbit hole, let’s look at what this paper is telling us and what we can do to protect our gut health…
SARS-CoV-2 can infect our gut bacteria and disrupt them, impacting gut health;
We can have a more severe outcome from COVID infection because of poor gut health; and
Other diseases, immune dysregulation, and autoimmune disorders, could appear because SARS-CoV-2 caused a problem with the gut bacteria.
Home Remedy: Probiotics and Prebiotics
The secret is fermentation. And the bacteria produced in that process complement and fortify the gut microbiome.
Prebiotics are the foods that feed and support the microbiome: Bananas, whole grains, greens, onions, garlic, soybeans and artichokes to name a few.
Not exactly the favorite diet of fast-food loving Americans! When last did you see sauerkraut on the menu at a long term care home?
Even though scientists have been studying the microbiome for several hundred years, It is only in the last few decades that the benefits of a healthy gut have been recognized by the “mainstream.” It has even been likened to a “second brain”.
Good advice would be to check out your pre and probiotic options for a healthier microbiome.
Back to the rabbit hole…
Many studies since the beginning of the pandemic have focused on the interaction between the ACE2 receptor and the virus spike glycoprotein , how the enzyme furin works, and how it plays a critical role between the eukaryotic host cell and the viral particle .2
Other studies cited in the paper, have shown that SARS-CoV-2 replicates in the gut, but this one is the first to prove that SARS-CoV-2 can actually infect the bacteria of the gut. To do that, the researchers isolated bacteria from stool samples, and using transmission electron microscopy (TEM), immunogold labeling and immunofluorescence they were able to actually see the virus in the bacteria. The virus in the culture disappeared after 30 days, but still lingered in the bacteria.
Even though tracking of outbreaks has for many months used analysis of wastewater as an indicator, the epidemiological focus so far has been on airborne transmission. The findings of this study point to the need to revisit the fecal-oral route of transmission. A meta analysis dated August 2020, and found on the NIH website concluded:
Viral shedding of SARS-CoV-2 in stool samples occurs in a substantial proportion of patients, making faecal-oral transmission plausible. Furthermore, detection in stool samples or anal swabs can persist long after negative respiratory testing. Therefore, stool sample or anal swab testing should be (re)considered in relation to decisions for isolating or discharging a patient.3
How does the virus enter a bacterial cell with no receptors like ACE2?
Remember the snake toxin? It’s not, but close…
The interaction between bacteria and SARS-CoV-2 does not necessarily occur with native viral surface proteins,(in this case spike) but most likely with a surface reworked by proteases and toxins  produced by bacteria.4
It goes like this: The bacteria sense the presence of the SARS-CoV-2, and release toxins and proteolytic enzymes to protect themselves. These toxins and enzymes erode the surface of the virus, making it possible to stick to the bacteria and enter them. This mechanism is unique to SARS-CoV-2 because other known bacteriophage viruses have specific receptors to gain entry. Ver-r-ry sneaky.
The damage to the bacteria caused by the virus can be clearly seen from these electron microscope images. The red arrows point at lysis. The yellow are the virus indicators. The bottom left is a healthy control. Photo : https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
The process is both lytic, and lysogenic. In lysis, the virus’ genetic material enters the bacteria and begins replicating, breaking down the bacteria’s DNA resulting in total breakdown, releasing the newly formed viruses. In the lysogenic phase the genetic material of the virus can be integrated with that of the bacteria, multiplying “silently” along with the bacteria as it divides. Under stress, this viral material (plasmids) will be released, and attack the bacteria again, restarting the lytic cycle. Silent infections are implicated in many diseases, like hepatitis-C and STD’s.
Meanwhile, the populations of bacteria in the culture could be seen changing; some dying off while others were proliferating to take their place.
A cascade follows lysis, the dying off of certain populations of bacteria is the mechanism in vivo that causes the dysregulation of the microbiome, causing problems with the immune system, digestive issues, and overall health issues. And, as they suggest, this could be connected to the severity of COVID as well.
... Based on…available data showing a decline in the population of these bacteria in the elderly, it has also been proposed that some commensal bacteria of the upper respiratory tract prevent SARS-CoV-2 infectivity and that a decrease in these bacteria contributes to infection severity .5
But that’s not all…
Understanding that a virus also binds to, interacts with, and infects bacteria and that fecal-oral transmission is an additional source of spread, completely changes the epidemiological scenario of SARS-CoV-2. It changes how to intervene, how to give policy input, how to treat COVID-19 patients at the onset of symptoms, how to prevent, and perhaps another possible solution could be the vaccine as Sabin did: “an attenuated virus for oral administration, probably justified by the need of the bacteria of the microbiota to interact with the virus.”6
A vaccine for the bacteria. Now that’s thinking outside the box.
An attenuated virus that we take as drops will be taken up by the bacteria and sustain the health of the bacteria.
…It is crucial to consider that once we have observed the replication of this virus in bacteria and understood that the route of transmission is also fecal-oral, it could be possible to control the virus spread and contribute with other specific pharmacological therapies to support current vaccines in order to improve the vaccination campaign.7
Many oral and nasal vaccines aimed at protection of the epithelial cells of the mucosa are underway, but targeting the microbiome would be a new angle.
Further study is needed to confirm the results of this study, but action can be taken NOW to fortify the health of the vulnerable knowing what we do about the interaction of SARS-CoV-2 and the universe of the microbiome.
Question: What are the potential implications for long COVID from this discovery?
Here is a tip from the comments: