Bedford Hospital joint study: Friendly gut bacteria speeds long Covid recovery

Experts joined forces with Addenbrooke’s Hospital and University of Bedfordshire

By Clare Turner
Tuesday, 21st December 2021, 2:59 pm
Updated Tuesday, 21st December 2021, 3:00 pm

Two capsules a day containing a scientifically chosen blend of natural ingredients could help patients suffering from long Covid.

That's according to experts at Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the University of Bedfordshire, Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) NHS Foundation Trust and volunteer patients across both counties.

Now, a research paper just published in the open access journal Infectious Diseases Diagnosis & Treatment, concludes that treating the gut to a blend of five different friendly bacteria called lactobacillus probiotics, combined with a chicory-rich ingredient known as an inulin, could help with acute and long-term Covid symptoms.

Professor Robert Thomas

Addenbrooke’s and Bedford hospitals oncology consultant, Professor Robert Thomas, says the year-long study started after researchers worldwide began reporting that Covid patients were suffering a disruption in the ratio of friendly to unfriendly bacteria in the gut, called dysbiosis. This was especially true of those with gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms such as nausea, indigestion and diarrhoea.

Then, London’s Kings College developed an app-based study, involving over 400,000 people, which showed those who took regular probiotic supplements had a lower risk of catching Covid.

Until now, it was not known whether taking probiotics after catching Covid could help. This research suggests they do - or more precisely a specific blend of lactobacillus probiotic and a chicory-rich inulin.

The study involved 126 people, a third of whom had an acute Covid infection with the majority reporting a wide variety of longer term symptoms lasting over 100 days. Results, analysed by university statisticians showed cough, fatigue, gut and well-being scores improved. Many said gut symptoms suffered for years were resolved.

Until now, it was not known whether taking probiotics after catching Covid could help

Dr Thomas said: "Such a rapid improvement in the majority who had been experiencing symptoms for over eight months was clinically relevant and welcomed, especially among those more likely to have pre-existing gut dysbiosis. The authors believe that the importance of interventions to improve gut health should emphasised to people with Covid.

"Going forwards, our research group is analysing the second phase of this study, which evaluated whether a whole phytochemical rich nutritional capsule, in additional to the probiotics, could further enhance Covid recovery.

“In addition, with the support of Roche pharmaceuticals, they are evaluating whether intake of this blend together with vitamin D could also enhance antibody titres levels post-Covid vaccination.”

More information about the trial can be found here