July 24, 2024
Gut Microbiome

Promising Results for Experimental Drug Targeting Gut Microbiome in Long COVID Patients

An experimental drug called SIM01 has shown promise in relieving multiple symptoms of long COVID, also known as post-acute COVID-19 syndrome (PACS), according to a randomized controlled trial conducted in Hong Kong. The drug, which contains strains of probiotic bacteria called anaerobic Bifidobacterium and prebiotic soluble fibers, aims to alter the gut microbiome and potentially modify the immune response.

The study, carried out from June 2021 to August 2022, involved 463 adult long COVID patients who were randomly assigned to receive either SIM01 or a vitamin C placebo for six months. The participants were assessed at baseline for symptoms, quality of life, and physical activity level. After six months, they were interviewed and underwent blood and fecal sample collection to evaluate changes in the gut microbiome and blood cytokines, which trigger the immune response.

The researchers noted that a decrease in the abundance of short-chain fatty acid-producing bacteria in the gut may contribute to the severity of COVID-19. Around 31% of the patients had been hospitalized during their initial infection. The study found that a significantly higher proportion of the SIM01 group reported improvements in fatigue, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, gastrointestinal upset, and general unwellness compared to the placebo group.

The relative benefits after SIM01 therapy were 47% for fatigue, 56% for memory loss, 62% for difficulty concentrating, 30% for gastrointestinal upset, and 31% for general unwellness. The rates of adverse events were similar in both groups, with no adverse events considered to be related to the treatment. Predictors of symptom improvement included receiving SIM01, infection with omicron subvariants, vaccination before COVID-19 infection, and a mild COVID-19 infection.

The study did not find a significant difference in quality of life or physical activity between the SIM01 group and the placebo group after six months. However, fecal metagenomic analysis revealed that the gut microbiome of the SIM01 recipients was more diverse and included more bacteria capable of producing short-chain acids, as well as fewer genes related to antibiotic resistance.

The researchers also observed a correlation between specific symptoms and changes in the microbiome. For example, the alleviation of fatigue, gastrointestinal upset, and memory loss was positively associated with the presence of Bifidobacterium adolescentis, while the improvement in difficulty concentrating was linked to an increase in Bifidobacterium longum.

The study suggests that treatment with SIM01 can alleviate multiple symptoms of PACS through its effects on the gut microbiome. However, further research is needed to explore the potential benefits of SIM01 in other chronic or post-infection conditions.

In a commentary accompanying the study, experts from the University of Oxford emphasized the importance of the gut microbiome in the development of long COVID. They cited other studies showing that probiotics containing beneficial bacteria, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species, could improve gut health, modulate inflammation, and enhance immune function.

However, the researchers noted certain limitations of the study, such as the lack of a universally accepted long COVID symptom assessment tool and the reliance on subjective symptom reports. They also highlighted that while some PACS symptoms were alleviated, there were no measurable improvements in quality of life or physical activity after six months, suggesting that the overall benefits of the treatment may be limited.

In conclusion, the findings of the study suggest that SIM01 has potential as a treatment for long COVID by modulating the gut microbiome. Further research is needed to fully understand the effects of SIM01 and its potential applications in other conditions.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it