Alterations of the fecal microbiota in relation to acute COVID-19 infection and recovery

Mol Biomed. 2022 Nov 28;3(1):36. doi: 10.1186/s43556-022-00103-1.


People with acute COVID-19 due to SARS-CoV-2 infection experience a range of symptoms, but major factors contributing to severe clinical outcomes remain to be understood. Emerging evidence suggests associations between the gut microbiome and the severity and progression of COVID-19. To better understand the host-microbiota interactions in acute COVID-19, we characterized the intestinal microbiome of patients with active SARS-CoV-2 infection in comparison to recovered patients and uninfected healthy controls. We performed 16S rRNA sequencing of stool samples collected between May 2020 and January 2021 from 20 COVID-19-positive patients, 20 COVID-19-recovered subjects and 20 healthy controls. COVID-19-positive patients had altered microbiome community characteristics compared to the recovered and control subjects, as assessed by both α- and β-diversity differences. In COVID-19-positive patients, we observed depletion of Bacteroidaceae, Ruminococcaceae, and Lachnospiraceae, as well as decreased relative abundances of the genera Faecalibacterium, Adlercreutzia, and the Eubacterium brachy group. The enrichment of Prevotellaceae with COVID-19 infection continued after viral clearance; antibiotic use induced further gut microbiota perturbations in COVID-19-positive patients. In conclusion, we present evidence that acute COVID-19 induces gut microbiota dysbiosis with depletion of particular populations of commensal bacteria, a phenomenon heightened by antibiotic exposure, but the general effects do not persist post-recovery.

Keywords: Clinical infection; Community ecology; Gastrointestinal tract; Infectious diseases; Microbiome; SARS-CoV-2.