Dr Brogna and his colleagues in Italy have published a new paper (one of a few recently). They’ve been looking into the fecal matter (yes, poop) of those who are infected with the virus and those who aren’t.
Can the virus replicate in our bacteria?
The researchers had previously seen a spontaneous replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the fecal cultures of patients. This made them wonder whether the virus could replicate in the bacteria present in the human microbiome.
So what did they find?
Their study demonstrated that SARS-CoV-2 can replicate in bacterial cultures by behaving as a bacteriophage. This means it enters bacterial cells and uses them to replicate its RNA. When this happens, the bacteria start producing the proteins associated with the virus.
The authors suggest that the virus uses two processes (a lytic phase and a lysogenic phase) to force the bacteria to accomplish this. If you’d like to understand this in more depth, check out this great video by Dr Been.
The scary thing about this is that the virus isn’t just airborne; it can also be transmitted through our poop. The researchers suggest that this requires a rethink on how to prevent infection as well as how to treat patients at the onset of symptoms.
What should we do to protect ourselves?
There’s good reason to consider the water you drink (we use reverse osmosis now) and become extra aware of hygiene issues. This research is also great reminder of how important it is to look after your gut microbiome. It has a direct effect not only on your immune system, but so many other areas of your body: your brain, lungs, nerves, urinary tract and even your reproductive health.