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By Adriana Rueda,
Our Scientific & Technical Coordinator

                                       Editor: Cristian Ocampo                                     

Why Are Probiotics Recommended as Part of the Treatment for COVID-19?


Victoria Explains...



Clinical evidence has shown that certain probiotic strains help prevent and/or treat bacterial and viral infections, including gastroenteritis, sepsis, and respiratory tract infections (RTI).


Despite strategies based on social distancing, hygiene, and virus detection, COVID-19 is still present all over the world, threatening the collapse of healthcare systems. Therefore, even though effective pharmacological therapies are being identified and vaccines may be available in the near future, additional preventive strategies are urgently needed; probiotics can be incorporated as part of those strategies.


When a person contracts COVID-19, mild to moderate flu-like symptoms appear in the upper respiratory tract.  In some cases, potentially deadly complications can develop, such as severe respiratory illnesses and multiple organ failure. It is believed that the spread of COVID-19—also known as SARS-CoV-2—occurs mainly through respiratory droplets and that the intestine can contribute to its pathogenesis.[1]  In fact, large clinical studies from China indicate that gastrointestinal symptoms are common with COVID-19 and are associated with the disease’s gravity.


This is where probiotics come in.  Viruses, like COVID-19, are the main cause for more than 90% of upper RTIs.  Probiotics’ positive impact on the prevention of upper RTIs has been documented in a series of studies:


  • A clinical study of 479 adults, showed that a combination of Lactobassillus Gasseri, Bifidobacterium Longum, and Bifidobacterium Bifidum with vitamins and minerals, not only reduced the duration of a common cold, but also the days the patients experienced fever.


  • It has also been documented that Lactobacillus Rhamnosus helps prevent upper RTIs caused by viruses similar to COVID-19.


  • Of particular relevance to the current pandemic (which affects adults more than children), these positive findings were confirmed by a study that included 27 elderly patients that received Bifidobacterium Longum.


Based on these studies, the following conclusions were drawn about probiotics:


  1. Their use could contribute to slowing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic and should therefore be considered as a preventive option.
  2. Given certain similarities between the microbiota in the lungs and the intestine (including surrounding mucus), an intestine-lung connection has been identified through which changes in composition, diversity, and number of intestinal microbiota can lead to respiratory diseases.
  3. RTIs, like influenza, are associated with an imbalance of the microbial communities in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts. This microbial imbalance can alter the subsequent immune function and can lead to secondary bacterial infections.  Since Chinese reports indicate that COVID-19 can be associated with an intestinal microbial imbalance that causes inflammation and a weakened response to pathogens; probiotic strains that restore intestinal homeostasis may be helpful.
  4.  The intestinal microbiome has a critical impact on systematic immune responses, including those in distant organs like the lungs.
  5.  Intake of certain Bifidobacteria or Lactobacillus has a beneficial impact on eliminating the influenza virus from the respiratory tract.
  6.  Probiotic strains increase levels of interferons,[2] antigens,[3] antibodies,[4] and other protective components in the lungs, such as mucous.
  7. There is also evidence that probiotic strains modify the equilibrium of proteins responsible for the cellular growth and activity of the immune system, and reduce the damage caused to the lungs by certain immune responses.  This is particularly relevant to prevent the Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) that results from COVID-19 complications.



According to the results found in these studies and considering the uncertainty regarding possible COVID-19 vaccines and anti-COVID-19 medications, the use of certain probiotics can be added to the arsenal of strategies being used to reduce the effects of the current pandemic.


[1] “Pathogénesis” describes the origin and evolution of a disease and all the factors that it includes.  What used to be described as the “development of a disease” is also identified as its “Pathomechanism.”

[2] A group of proteins released by virus-infected cells to alert nearby cells to the presence of a virus so that they can heighten their anti-viral defenses.

[3] Substance that induces an immune response and triggers the formation of antibodies.

[4] Proteins used by the immune system to attack substances that are foreign to the organism.





  1. Szajewska H, Kolodziej M, Gieruszczak-Bialek D, Skorka A, Ruszczynski M, Shamir R. Systematic review with meta-analysis: Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG for treating acute gastroenteritis in children–a 2019 update. Aliment PharmacolTher. (2019) 49:1376–84. 10.1111/apt.15267 [PubMed] [CrossRef].


  2. Jin X, Lian JS, Hu JH, Gao J, Zheng L, Zhang YM, et al. . Epidemiological, clinical and virological characteristics of 74 cases of coronavirus-infected disease 2019 (COVID-19) with gastrointestinal symptoms. Gut. (2020). [Epub ahead of print]. 10.1136/gutjnl-2020-320926 [PMC free article] [PubMed] [CrossRef].


  3. Lin L, Jiang X, Zhang Z, Huang S, Zhang Z, Fang Z, et al. . Gastrointestinal symptoms of 95 cases with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Gut. (2020). [Epub ahead of print]. 10.1136/gutjnl-2020-321013 [PMC free article] [PubMed] [CrossRef].


  4. Guillemard E, Tondu F, Lacoin F, Schrezenmeir J. Consumption of a fermented dairy product containing the probiotic Lactobacillus casei DN-114001 reduces the duration of respiratory infections in the elderly in a randomised controlled trial. Br J Nutr. (2010) 103:58–68. 10.1017/S0007114509991395 [PubMed] [CrossRef].


  5. Namba K, Hatano M, Yaeshima T, Takase M, Suzuki K. Effects of Bifidobacteriumlongum BB536 administration on influenza infection, influenza vaccine antibody titer, and cell-mediated immunity in the elderly. BiosciBiotechnolBiochem. (2010) 74:939–45. 10.1271/bbb.90749 [PubMed] [CrossRef].




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