Is the microbiome the real challenge with corona virus infections?

Dysbiosis and the gut respiratory influenza link.

The elderly and people with pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, respiratory and cardiovascular conditions including hypertension are at highest risk from the corona virus. Children under nine years of age have either no or mild symptoms. Although a few with pre-existing conditions have died as a result of the infection. People over the age of 70 and even more so for those over 80 years are the most vulnerable. For those over 80, approximately 15% of those infected will die. Again, it comes down to the fact that they have pre-existing conditions. Unfortunately, 80% of Australian adults over 65 years have at least one chronic condition and many have multiple conditions which also means they are on multiple medications. What is now called polypharmacy. Since these groups display some deficiency in immune responses, viral infections in these high risk groups frequently lead to severe and sometimes even lethal conditions. Therefore, maintaining the immune system in an appropriately robust condition is thought to be important for the prevention of respiratory viral infections including corona virus. 

Another way to look at this is that the research shows that each of these high risk groups have gut dysfunction otherwise known as dysboisis. Including the negative impact of many pharmaceuticals on the gut microbiome. Is gut dysbiosis therefore the real pre-existing condition that increases these groups and individuals risk to the corona virus. In support of this various respiratory virus show significantly increased risk if a person is obese or has inflammatory gut conditions such as IBD. Both conditions are linked to gut dysbiosis and increased inflammation.

The gut microbiota plays a major role in our immune system both our innate (immediate) and adaptive (longer term) immune responses influences susceptibility to infectious throughout the body including the respiratory, gastrointestinal and female reproductive tract. The gut microbiome provides a low-level stimulation to the innate immune system that modulates the susceptibility of the host to viral infections.

More recently it has been discovered that the “gut-lung axis” is bidirectional. Lung infections influence the gut microbiota leading to gut microbiome dysbiosis, as well as the gut microbiota also influencing lung infections through the immune system. The gut dysbosis created by the lung infection further lowers the immune function of the gut and increases the risk of serious health complications including co-infection from other pathogenic species. Which in turn makes it easier for the original virus to take over more. 

What we know from hundreds of studies of these pre-exisiting medical conditions like chronic respiratory and cardiovascular conditions is that they are linked to the gut microbiome and improve when gut dysbiosis is reduced. The answer therefore lies improving the immune system through fixing the gut dysbiosis and some very simple and cost effective strategies. Which can reduce the incidence and severity of the virus and improve chronic health conditions at the same time.

Unfortunately, history tells us that without trying to infect ourselves the health and medical systems are not going to listen to this. Despite the hundreds of studies to support it. Robin Warren and Barry Marshall were the joint winners of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery that gastritis and peptic ulcers arise from an infection of the stomach caused by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. However, it took 20 years for the two researchers to overturn established medical dogma and revolutionise the treatment of peptic ulcers and only when they put their own lives on the line. Warren first discovered the role of Helicobacter pylori in 1979, “But trying to convince other people of that was impossible,” he stated. Orthodox medical teaching at the time was that bacteria did not grow in a normal stomach. However, as Warren wrote in the 2002 book Helicobacter Pioneers, “I preferred to believe my eyes, not the medical textbooks or the medical fraternity.” While Marshall was able to convince the scientific microbiologists as they had no dogma to overcome about the causes of gastritis and peptic ulcers, the wider medical community remained hard to convince. Even the first major publication of their results, in the journal Lancet in 1984, was almost impossible to get published. The editors, Marshall recalls, found it difficult to find reviewers who could agree the paper was important, general, and interesting enough to be published. 

In 1984, in an act born out of frustration, Marshall deliberately infected himself by drinking a solution swimming with the bacterium. But many clinicians still remained unmoved. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that the findings of Marshall and Warren became impossible to ignore, at which point pharmaceutical development and clinical practice underwent a shift toward eradication of H pylori to treat ulcers instead of over treatment with over-the-counter drugs and poor advice. They won the Nobel Prize for their work a decade later and helped millions of people around the world.

There is already overwhelming research on the benefits of prebiotics and probiotics in reducing the extent and severity of virtually all respiratory illnesses (this will be presented in my next blog). So we can wait and see more people get sick and die or we can take action and fix the gut.

My suggestion is that you increase your fibre intake (especially and take probiotics and even more importantly learn about gut health as it may save your life.

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