Alterations of the gut microbiota in coronavirus disease 2019 and its therapeutic potential

World J Gastroenterol. 2022 Dec 21;28(47):6689-6701. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v28.i47.6689.


The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) poses a serious threat to global health. SARS-CoV-2 infects host cells primarily by binding to angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, which is coexpressed in alveolar type 2 cells and gut epithelial cells. It is known that COVID-19 often presents with gastrointestinal symptoms and gut dysbiosis, mainly characterized by an increase in opportunistic pathogens and a decrease in beneficial commensal bacteria. In recent years, multiple studies have comprehensively explored gut microbiota alterations in COVID-19 and highlighted the clinical correlation between dysbiosis and COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2 causes gastrointestinal infections and dysbiosis mainly through fecal-oral transmission and the circulatory and immune pathways. Studies have shown that the gut microbiota and its metabolites can regulate the immune response and modulate antiviral effects. In addition, the gut microbiota is closely related to gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea, a common gastrointestinal symptom among COVID-19. Therefore, the contribution of the gut microbiota in COVID-19 should not be overlooked. Strategies targeting the gut microbiota via probiotics, prebiotics and fecal microbiota transplantation should be considered to treat this patient population in the future. However, the specific alterations and mechanisms as well as the contributions of gut microbiota in COVID-19 should be urgently further explored.

Keywords: Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2; COVID-19; Dysbiosis; Gut microbiota; Lung; SARS-CoV-2.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / therapy
  • Dysbiosis / microbiology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • SARS-CoV-2