According to a randomized controlled study, an experimental drug that alters the gut microbiome could help alleviate multiple symptoms of Long-COVID.
Post-acute COVID-19 syndrome (PACS) or Long-COVID is a multisystemic condition affecting over 65 million people worldwide. Currently, there is no recognized effective treatment for this disease, significantly impacting the quality of life of those affected.
Multiple studies have shown the potential of probiotics in the recovery from acute viral infections. Researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong investigated the therapeutic effects of gut modulation using a synbiotic drug, SIM01, in a group of 463 patients with long COVID. The synbiotic drug contains a mixture of probiotics and prebiotics, with anaerobic Bifidobacterium bacteria acting as probiotics and soluble fibers as prebiotics.
The results of the study suggest that the drug could help alleviate symptoms such as fatigue, gastrointestinal discomfort, concentration difficulties, memory loss, and overall malaise. The study was published in Lancet Infectious Diseases.
The participants included long COVID patients in a single hospital between June 2021 and August 2022. They were randomly selected to receive SIM01 twice daily or a vitamin C placebo for six months.
At the beginning of the trial, the participants‘ symptoms, quality of life, and physical activity levels were assessed. After six months, the participants‘ symptoms were reassessed, and changes in their gut microbiome and blood cytokines were measured using blood and stool samples.
„After 6 months, significantly higher proportions of the SIM01 group compared to the placebo group experienced relief from fatigue, memory loss, concentration difficulties, gastrointestinal discomfort, and overall malaise,“ the researchers wrote.
However, after six months, there was no significant difference in quality of life and physical activity.
„Treatment with SIM01 alleviates multiple PACS symptoms. Our findings have implications for the treatment of PACS through gut microbiome modulation. Further studies are needed to investigate the beneficial effects of SIM01 in other chronic diseases or post-infection conditions,“ they added.
The study has certain limitations. There is no universally accepted tool for assessing Long-COVID symptoms, so the analysis was based on subjective symptom reports that could influence the results.
„Although some relief of PACS symptoms was observed, this relief after six months did not translate into measurable improvements in quality of life or physical activity, suggesting that the actual benefit of the treatment for overall health perception and functionality may be limited,“ said Betty Raman and Maheshi Ramasamy of the University of Oxford in a corresponding post.