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Gastroenterology ; 159(3): 944-955.e8, 2020 09.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-324569


BACKGROUND & AIMS: Although severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infects gastrointestinal tissues, little is known about the roles of gut commensal microbes in susceptibility to and severity of infection. We investigated changes in fecal microbiomes of patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection during hospitalization and associations with severity and fecal shedding of virus. METHODS: We performed shotgun metagenomic sequencing analyses of fecal samples from 15 patients with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Hong Kong, from February 5 through March 17, 2020. Fecal samples were collected 2 or 3 times per week from time of hospitalization until discharge; disease was categorized as mild (no radiographic evidence of pneumonia), moderate (pneumonia was present), severe (respiratory rate ≥30/min, or oxygen saturation ≤93% when breathing ambient air), or critical (respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation, shock, or organ failure requiring intensive care). We compared microbiome data with those from 6 subjects with community-acquired pneumonia and 15 healthy individuals (controls). We assessed gut microbiome profiles in association with disease severity and changes in fecal shedding of SARS-CoV-2. RESULTS: Patients with COVID-19 had significant alterations in fecal microbiomes compared with controls, characterized by enrichment of opportunistic pathogens and depletion of beneficial commensals, at time of hospitalization and at all timepoints during hospitalization. Depleted symbionts and gut dysbiosis persisted even after clearance of SARS-CoV-2 (determined from throat swabs) and resolution of respiratory symptoms. The baseline abundance of Coprobacillus, Clostridium ramosum, and Clostridium hathewayi correlated with COVID-19 severity; there was an inverse correlation between abundance of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii (an anti-inflammatory bacterium) and disease severity. Over the course of hospitalization, Bacteroides dorei, Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, Bacteroides massiliensis, and Bacteroides ovatus, which downregulate expression of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) in murine gut, correlated inversely with SARS-CoV-2 load in fecal samples from patients. CONCLUSIONS: In a pilot study of 15 patients with COVID-19, we found persistent alterations in the fecal microbiome during the time of hospitalization, compared with controls. Fecal microbiota alterations were associated with fecal levels of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 severity. Strategies to alter the intestinal microbiota might reduce disease severity.

Betacoronavirus , Coronavirus Infections/microbiology , Dysbiosis/virology , Feces/microbiology , Gastrointestinal Microbiome/genetics , Pneumonia, Viral/microbiology , Adult , Aged , COVID-19 , Female , Gastrointestinal Tract/microbiology , Hong Kong/epidemiology , Hospitalization/statistics & numerical data , Humans , Male , Middle Aged , Pandemics , Pilot Projects , SARS-CoV-2