The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines probiotics as live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer health benefits on the host. It can be found in fermented foods (e.g., yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, and kimchi), dietary supplements, and cosmetics.
Probiotics can contain a wide range of microorganisms. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are the most common. Other bacteria, such as Saccharomyces boulardii, are also used as probiotics.
According to research, different types of bacteria have different effects on the human body. As a result, selecting the right strains and types of probiotics is critical for it to work on the said health concern.
How do probiotics aid in health maintenance?
There are a variety of ‘bugs’ that coexist naturally in the body, such as bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses; these are what scientists refer to as the microbiome. In the body of a healthy person, all these bugs coexist peacefully. The role of the microbiome is to promote the smooth daily operation of the human body. However, conditions such as infectious illness, a certain diet, and prolonged use of antibiotics and/or other bacteria-destroying medications can make the body more susceptible to diseases.
Due to this, scientists believe that consumption of probiotics influences the colonisation process of bacteria, which can lead to a speedy restoration of a healthy microbiome and a lower risk of getting sick.
Probiotics and COVID-19
Probiotics are linked with COVID-19 due to their ability to boost the immune system. Currently, the most extensive research on probiotics includes Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Escherichia coli, Enterococcus, etc. Although probiotics mechanisms profoundly focus on the gastrointestinal tract, their effects are not confined to the digestive system alone. Probiotics can act on the entire body via immune modulation. Not only that, it also facilitates the immune system's development and maturation and regulates the interaction between host and pathogen by killing the pathogen and regulating the immune responses towards it.
One could argue that, but COVID-19 is a viral infection, not a bacterial infection. A systematic review described the efficacy of probiotics against viral diseases, with over 20 strains of probiotics demonstrating anti-inflammatory effects on the body and antibody production against viruses.
Furthermore, the study discovered that probiotics supplementation reduced viral loads. This is thought to be due to immune modulation by microbiota, which fights COVID-19 directly and reduces the risk of secondary infections caused by prolonged antibiotic exposure from multiple experimental COVID-19 treatments.
China’s National Health Commission recommended probiotics for severe COVID-19 patients to restore the intestinal balance and protect from secondary infections. Moreover, gut microbiota’s role in modulating lung diseases has been demonstrated.
In conclusion, the researchers in this study believe that many more studies on the effectiveness of using probiotics for COVID-19 prevention and treatment should be conducted. Individuals may now benefit from probiotics rich foods and supplementation for its boosting immunity properties and fight against COVID-19, in addition to practising social distancing, wearing masks, and adhering to standard operating procedures (SOP).