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by Melissa Fray

Scientists discover 3 specific bacteria in the gut microbiome that can drastically limit COVID-19 infection

Scientists at Rockefeller University in New York have discovered that three naturally occurring bacteria in the gut microbiome can reduce the chance of COVID-19 infection by nearly 90-percent. During the study, the group posed the question if the human body can produce metabolites that inhibit the growth of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

According to a Jan. 6 article in Medical News Today, first author Dr. Frank J. Piscotta collaborated with principal study author Dr. Sean F. Brady, chemists at Rockefeller University, biophysicists, and virologists to tackle the question at hand.  Piscotta, Brady, and their team selected a group of 50 bacteria located inside the human gut. The team then isolated their compounds, and tested their antiviral properties in laboratory cultures of cells.

The study

Out of the 50 samples, 10 were found to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection by 10-percent. After being further streamlined, three metabolites were found to reduce the risk of infection by 90-percent. The Medical News Today article states these metabolites were:

  • “A pyrazine called 2,5-bis (3 indolylmethyl) pyrazine (BIP)
  • A 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HTR) receptor against tryptamine
  • A compound named N6-(∆2-isopentenyl) adenosine (IPA)”

Of these final three tests, IPA was found to have the “broadest antiviral activity”. Tryptamine was found to preferably inhibit coronaviruses. BIP was found to have a more narrowed spectrum than IPA. Researchers emphasized that, to their knowledge, this was the first study that reported findings of specific molecules with antiviral activity that the human biome naturally produces.

Researchers were shocked with how closely these metabolites mimicked synthetic compounds found in FDA approved agents. These approved agents had also undergone intense COVID-19 observational studies and clinical trials.

“The researchers identified the following mimicry between nature and pharmaceuticals:

  • IPA is structurally similar to remdesivir, a medication that doctors use to treat some severe COVID-19 infections.
  • Tryptamine is similar to serotonin. The selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor fluvoxamine is a medication that doctors typically use to treat OCD.
  • BIP parallels central aspects of the structure of favipiravir, an oral antiviral medication that clinical trials are testing as a treatment for mild COVID-19 disease and comparing with remdesivir for treating moderate disease.

Other outcomes

Additionally, the Rockefeller researchers observed that tryptamine’s ability to inhibit SARS-CoV-2 strongly paralleled observations in clinical studies showing that people who were taking fluvoxamine had improved COVID-19 outcomes.”

Brady was asked how it was possible that these natural metabolites could so closely mimic synthetic compounds in structure. He explained that one hypothesis is that throughout history, doctors have been inspired by nature to create similar compounds for treating patients. Brady described it as, “natural inspirations.”

He also added what he believed to be a second potential reason for the similarities:

“The other possibility is that there are a limited number of simple chemistries that inhibit viruses, and whether those are identified by synthetic chemists, or by nature, the molecules may just end up being the same general structural classes — a sort of intellectual convergent,” Brady said.

These findings may just be the tip of the iceberg regarding host-microbiome interactions. Brady also believes that further research and investigation may lead to the discovery of even more bacteria with antiviral capabilities.

“The jury is still out on whether the chemistry of the human microbiome is going to be dramatically different from that which we have already explored in bacteria from other microbiomes,” Brady said. “There’s reason to believe that there might be new chemistry. It’s a new environment where bacteria are interacting with the human host, which is quite different from bacteria in other environments like the soil environment, from which many drugs used today come.”

To read the full report from Medical News Today click here.