Recent review explores the relationship between the microbiome, immunity, and viral infection

February 26, 2021
Sebastian Krawiec

A recent review funded by the International Probiotics Association and authored by members of the association’s scientific committee, investigated the relationship between the gastrointestinal microbiome, the host immune system, and viral immunity.

A recent review1 funded by the International Probiotics Association and authored by members of the association’s scientific committee, investigated the relationship between the gastrointestinal microbiome, the host immune system, and viral immunity. According to ther review, there is an increasing body of evidence that suggests a disruption in the homeostasis between the GI microbiome and the host immune system can adversely impact viral immunity.

Research suggests, for example, that when a virus is exposed to mucosal surfaces (e.g., vaginal, respiratory, or GI), they have three broad lines of defense to overcome: the mucus layer, innate immune defenses, and adaptive immune defenses. Commensal and probiotic bacteria may influence each line of defense and the antiviral mechanism can be both direct and indirect. These mechanisms include enhanced mucosal barrier function, secretion of antiviral antimicrobial peptides and bacteriocins, the inhibition of viral attachment to host cells, and the modulation of antiviral innate and adaptive leucocyte function.

When it comes to probiotic supplementation, it has been studied extensively in the management of viral diarrhea, with evidence suggesting its safety and efficacy, however research of probiotics’ efficacy on the management of viral infection requires further study. The review also shows there is research that suggests probiotics may act as an adjuvant to enhance immune response of some vaccines, which warrants further study, as well as the potential for probiotics during intensive care in hospitals to potentially reduce morbidity and mortality of patients.

The authors conclude that because probiotics are safe and cost effective, the prospect for achieving even minimal clinically significant benefits is worthwhile.

Reference

  1. Harper A et al. “Viral infections, the microbiome, and probiotics.” Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, vol. 10 (February 12, 2021)