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Recent research has demonstrated the potential prognostic and therapeutic roles of microbiota in COVID-19 infections. Leading the way in researching, and educating through their popular course “Clinical Applications of Microbiota,” join Georgetown faculty experts for a discussion examining the dynamic relationship between the microbiota and disease expression, particularly in relation to gut health and the novel coronavirus. This discussion features: Moderator: Douglas Varner, MS, MLS, Assistant Dean for Information Management, Dahlgren Memorial LibraryRobynne Chutkan, MD, FASGE, Founder, Digestive Center for Wellness, LLC Kate Michel, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor, School of Medicine, Georgetown University; KL2 Scholar, Georgetown-Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences Sona Vasudevan, Professor, Department of Biochemistry, Georgetown University Medical Center This program was co-hosted by Georgetown Health magazine and the Georgetown University Alumni Association. Copy provided by Georgetown Alumni Webinars

Could quarantining put you at a higher risk for disease? Studies and data analysis show that the best way to protect yourself and others from coronavirus is isolation. But could the practices of self-isolation, quarantining, and extreme social distancing put you at a higher risk for health conditions over the long term? The surprising answer is it may. Not only has the pandemic increased our over-sanitization, the very thing that, over the last century, has so dramatically (and negatively) affected the beneficial microbes that are essential to our health, but it has also brought on a complete change of lifestyle for most of us – less exercise, more unhealthy foods, added stress and the anxiety of juggling dwindling finances, job loss, homeschooling, and a lack of childcare, as well as inadequate sleep quality and quantity. All of these factors create a perfect storm for weight gain, increased disease risk, and…

Fasting plasma blood glucose levels (FPG) at hospital admission independently predicts COVID-19 complications and death in those without diabetes. Scientists looked back at the FPG levels at hospital admission in 605 COVID-19 patients in Wuhan. Those with a FPG of 126 mg/dL or higher were nearly 4 times more likely to experience COVID-19 complications compared to those with a FPG less than 110 mg/dL. Annals of Internal Medicine Takeaway: Because FPG proves to be such a strong, independent predictor of COVID-19 complications and mortality, researchers who conducted the study recommend glycemic testing and control at hospital admission for all COVID-19 patients, even for those who don’t have a previous diabetes diagnosis. Testing and controlling blood sugar can help in assessing COVID-19 severity and mortality risk, as well as improve survival outcomes. Are you concerned about your risk for developing high blood glucose levels and diabetes? If so, a study published…

Scientific evidence links COVID-19 transmission with fecal aerosols. A recent study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, explored an outbreak in a high-rise apartment building in Guangzhou, China. The outbreak infected 9 individuals living in different units throughout the building. Through patient interviews, throat swabs, and an in-depth environmental investigation, researchers found that transmission most likely occurred in the master bathrooms of the apartments, which were connected through drainage vents. Fecal bio-aerosols most likely leaked, travelling from one apartment to another through the bathroom drainage pipes. Annals of Internal Medicine Takeaway: To prevent future outbreaks of this kind, scientists who conducted the study recommend immediately resolving any leaks that exist within sewage drainage systems. This will prevent bio-aerosols from escaping and becoming a hazard. The findings in this study add to the growing evidence that COVID-19 and other infectious diseases can be spread through wastewater plumbing systems, especially those in…

These days having a colonoscopy is no easy feat. In addition to the usual inconvenience of a clear liquid diet the day before and a bowel prep to clean you out (thoroughly!), most endoscopy centers now require a negative COVID test a few days before your procedure, and then self quarantine until your procedure is completed. That has lots of people wondering whether the hassle – and risk – is really worth it. Over the last few weeks I’ve spoken with a few patients to help them stratify their risk and decide if a procedure is in the cards.  The first patient I spoke to had ulcerative colitis and was due for her surveillance colonoscopy this month. Patients with ulcerative colitis may be at increased risk for colon cancer depending on how long they’ve had the disease; how much of their colon is affected; and how active their inflammation is. For my patient, although she’d been diagnosed with colitis 14 years…

Stress levels may be a key factor in determining who suffers from severe COVID-19 and could potentially help measure who is at an increased risk of mortality. In a study conducted in London, researchers took the cortisol levels within 48 hours of hospital admittance in suspected COVID patients. Those who did not have COVID became the control group. Of the suspected patients admitted, 403 patients were found to have COVID. After analyzing the results, researchers found that the mean cortisol levels in COVID patients was 619 nmol/L versus 519 nmol/L in non-COVID patients. In addition, in patients with higher cortisol levels, a 43% increase in mortality was observed. Those with cortisol levels greater than 744 nmol/L had a median survival of 15 days versus 36 days in those with cortisol levels less than 744 nmol/L. MedRxIV Takeaway: Researchers noted that stress levels observed in some COVID patients were higher than…

What causes animals (or humans) with identical genetic codes, gut microbes, and germ exposure to survive the same pathogen (and pathogen dosage), while another dies? Could the answer lie in manipulating the body to tolerate disease as opposed to fighting it? This is a theme that has received lots of attention in the last five years, and one worth discussing, especially in the midst of the pandemic. An article published in The Scientist in June 2019 highlighted a series of rodent studies that investigated this phenomenon. One study in particular showed that providing nutrients for the host when pathogens invade the body could help in maximizing host health and survival. Researchers infected a group of mice (all were identical in terms of genetic code, microbial makeup, diet, and environment) with a pathogenic bacterium, Citrobacter rodentium. Exposure was kept constant across all mice, and pathogenic bacteria levels were identical in the gut…

A first study of its kind shows that gut microbes could predict how seriously ill a Covid-19 patient might become. In the hopes to identify why some individuals with COVID-19 fare better than others, researchers created a risk score based on blood biomarkers found in severe COVID-19 patients. Scientists found that these biomarkers are linked closely with a core set of gut microbiome characteristics, as well as with increased inflammatory cytokines. COVID-19 is linked closely to the gut. As the virus enters the body, it binds to ACE2 enzymes, which play a large role in regulating intestinal inflammation and gut microbe make-up. COVID-19 patients who experience GI symptoms (diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting) also tend to suffer from a more severe state of the disease, so it makes sense that the gut microbiome and disease severity are strongly associated. MedRxiv Takeaway: Scientists who conducted the research concluded that based on the…