HONG KONG, June 13 (Xinhua) — A probiotic formula was developed by scientists from the Chinese University of Hong Kong as a new approach to combat COVID-19, the university announced on Thursday.
Francis K L Chan, dean of the university’s Faculty of Medicine and director of the Center for Gut Microbiota Research, said, “Gut health rules over the immune system of our bodies. We must identify the composition of intestinal bacteria that helps maintain our defense. From there on, we can modulate the gut microbiota to boost our immunity against viral and bacterial infections. This will be a novel approach in the combat of COVID-19.”
From February to March, the university’s researchers collected stool specimens from 15 COVID-19 patients. The results showed that severe gut dysbiosis existed in the patients, comparing with healthy individuals. Some commensal symbionts, generally good bacteria, were missing while other pathogens were increasing in the patients’ guts.
The research team further expanded the research scope and collected data on gut microbiome of 150 COVID-19 patients and 1,500 healthy individuals. With the use of big data analysis, the team managed to come up with a probiotic formula which targets at gut dysbiosis derived from COVID-19 infections.
Siew Chien Ng, associate director of the university’s Center for Gut Microbiota Research, said, “We are studying good bacteria that are closely linked to our immune system and looking for solutions to limit the threat of the novel coronavirus to our health.”
The university’s medical school has applied for patents for the probiotic innovation in China and the United States and is now collaborating with innovation and technology companies and food companies to turn the formula into a probiotic supplement that can be added into the daily diet.
The research was published in the international medical journal Gastroenterology.