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Trial Shows Gut Probiotic Reduces Covid-19 Disease

Microbiome graphic

(Tony Webster, Flickr)

12 Jan. 2022. Results of a clinical trial show a microbial supplement in the gut reduces respiratory symptoms and viral load in people with mild Covid-19 disease. Findings from the trial testing the probiotic dietary supplement AB21, made by AB-Biotics in Barcelona, against a placebo appear in yesterday’s issue of the journal Gut Microbes.

Researchers from AB-Biotics and colleagues in Mexico, where the trial was held, tested an hypothesis that lung health can be affected by changes in the gut microbiome, bacterial communities in the gut. This gut-lung axis, say the authors, is comprised of signals among microbes between both organs, and is also affected by the immune system. The trial tested AB21, made by AB-Biotics as a dietary supplement to help reduce symptoms of viral infections, as well as boost the immune symptom’s response to infection. AB21 consists of three Lactobacillus plantarum bacterial strains and a Pediococcus acidilactici bacterium formulated into a capsule.

The clinical trial enrolled 300 adult participants age 18 to 60 at a general hospital in Mexico City, with Covid-19 infections and experiencing mild symptoms. Participants were randomly assigned to receive one dose a day of AB21 or a placebo capsule for 30 days. The study team looked primarily at AB21’s ability to prevent progression of Covid-19 into more serious symptoms, need for intensive care, or mortality. Researchers also measured participants’ viral loads, took lung X-rays, and assessed stool samples at three points during the trial, looking for other health effects, including adverse reactions to the treatments.

More antibody production in probiotic recipients

Results show more AB21 than placebo recipients achieved complete remission of their Covid-19 disease. Of those receiving AB21, 53 percent showed no more Covid-19 symptoms and cleared their viral loads, compared to 28 percent of placebo recipients, a statistically reliable difference. No trial participants, either AB21 or placebo recipients, required further hospital stays or died during the trial. AB21 capsules appear to be well-tolerated with no serious adverse effects reported by any trial participants.

Findings also show AB21 recipients experience more viral load reductions in the nose and throat, and shorter duration of Covid-19 symptoms, both digestive and non-digestive. While the study team found no differences in fecal microbes between AB21 and placebo recipients, the team reports higher immunoglobulin G and M antibody counts among AB21 participants that act against SARS-CoV-2 infections. The authors hypothesize the AB21 probiotics interact with the immune system to produce more antibodies than they change the composition of gut microbes.

“Few trials to date have found effective approaches for reducing symptom duration and viral load in Covid-19 outpatients,” says Pedro Gutiérrez-Castrellón, CEO of the International Scientific Council for Probiotics and first author of the paper, in an AB-Biotics statement. “Therefore an oral probiotic that helps to reduce viral load, lung infiltrates and symptom duration – like the AB21 probiotic intervention trialed in this study – could help to support Covid-19 outpatients more cost-effectively, and in addition to standard recognized therapies.”

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