COVID-19. The intestinal microbiota protects children

A study by Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital characterizes for the first time the microbial profile that appears to protect the little ones from serious forms of the disease. Research results published on Limits in cellular and infectious microbiology

21 JUL

Characterized for the first time the intestinal microbiota profile of children affected by Covid-19, which, thanks to special anti-inflammatory properties, appears to protect them from serious forms of the disease. Identity comes from the researchers from Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital who conducted a study – the first internationally – dedicated to the relationship between the microbiota and SARS-CoV-2 infection in pediatric age. The research has just been published in the scientific journal Limits in cellular and infectious microbiologysuggests possible therapeutic interventions on the microbiota to help control the disease.

The study of the composition and function of the intestinal microbiota in pediatric patients with COVID-19 was conducted by the Human Microbiome Research Unit, led by Prof. Lorenza Putignani, as part of “CACTUS – Immunological studies in children affected by COVID and acute diseases“Coordinated by prof. Paolo Palma. The study made use of the clinical collaboration between specialists from different departments of the hospital.

The research included 88 patients with symptoms of suspected SARS-CoV-2 infection, admitted between March and September 2020 at the COVID Center in Palidoro and at the Gianicolo del Bambino Gesù site. Based on the result of nasopharyngeal inoculation, they were divided into 2 groups: patients with COVID-19 (positive inoculation) and patients with other infection (negative inoculation).

Stool samples taken from each participant were analyzed using metagenomic techniques (DNA sequencing of the entire intestinal microbial community), which allowed the researchers to define the composition of the microbiota. Data from the two groups were then compared with each other and with data from a control group of healthy children. In addition, the study of microbiota function was also performed for the group with COVID-19.

Research has shown thatLike adulthood, the intestinal microbiota in children with COVID-19 is altered and hardly diversified compared to patients with other infections or healthy children. Specifically, it was rich in bacteria with a predominantly pro-inflammatory effect (Bacteroidetes and Fusobacteria) and poor in some “good” microorganisms (Actinobacteria, Verrucomicrobia, Akkermansia, Blautia, Ruminococcus), which promote the maintenance of intestinal balance (homeostasis).

However, again compared to the healthy group or those with other infections, a significant increase in Faecalibacterium was also detected in children with COVID-19, a bacterium known for its beneficial and anti-inflammatory properties that support the immune system in defending the disease. body. In adult patients with the most severe form of COVID-19, the absence of this bacterium is accurately described as a severity index. In addition, the functional study of the microbiota from the COVID group revealed the increase in some processes of microbial metabolism, which also indirectly support an adequate immunological response.

Taken together, the data collected by the Bambino Gesù researchers highlight a potential link between the function of the intestinal microbiota and the clinical course of COVID-19 in pediatric age.. The research group’s analyzes support the hypothesis that children’s microbiota with its anti-inflammatory properties – compared to adults – helps to reduce the severity of the infection. The study opens up the hypothesis of therapeutic interventions on the microbiota to help control the development of important diseases, including COVID-19.

July 21, 2022
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