In a small scale and controversial research study from Hong Kong, the researchers concluded that the composition of your microbiome may well determine the quality of immune protection and level of side-effects caused by Covid vaccines.
Research, dubbed by several experts as ‘a major study‘ and published in BMJ Gut Health (1), concludes that specific gut bacteria correlate to the level of immune protection and the level of side-effects in people having the SARS-Covid19 vaccine. The researchers even concluded that people should alter their gut makeup before having the vaccine!
It’s easier said than done, especially as their findings had little to do with the more commonly available family used in yoghurts and probiotic supplements, Lactobacillus. However, the overall finding is not that much of a surprise – we already know that older people who are sedentary and have metabolic syndrome (high blood sugar, high blood fats etc), are more likely to have damaged microbiomes and are more likely to die from Covid, or develop ‘long Covid‘ as a result of the catching the virus.
The conclusion may not even be accurate.
In this new research,
i) 37 people received the inactivated vaccine CoronaVac; Sinovac, from China and 101 people received the mRNA vaccine (BNT162b2; BioNTech; Comirnaty, from the USA). It was a small study but it concluded the Chinese CoronaVac achieved a significantly lower immune response.
ii) People who ate a high carbohydrate diet and had higher levels of Bifidobacterium adolescentis as a result, had a greater propensity to neutralize the vaccines, resulting in reduced vaccine effectiveness.
iii) People taking the BNT162b2 vaccine had a better response if they had an abundance of bacteria with Flagella and Pili (fimbriae) which are long protein filaments that extend outwards like tails. These are weapons of attack so, in their own right, these bacteria help defend against Covid. Bacteria like these include Roseburia faecis. They are increasing the defense capabilities
iv) Where people had an abundance of Prevotella copri and two Megamonas species, these people had fewer adverse events following either of the vaccines, Which according to the researchers indicatied that these bacteria may play an anti-inflammatory role. Actually these bacteria themselves cause infections of the lungs, such as pneumonia, and sinusitis. More likely, the presence of these bacteria has already caused an immune response and so there was less likely to be a negative response. That’s how the microbiome ‘works‘ – you build antibodies to the bacteria in it, and so the immune system is ‘primed’ when a sImilar pathogen comes along. Frankly, who would want to add Prevotella to their microbiome?
The Chinese researchers from Hong Kong concluded from this Observational study of just 148 people, that pretreatment with probiotics could limit adverse effects an increase immunity. However, these probiotics are not in the pills widely available and can even prompt disease. Perhaps it would be more correct to conclude that having metabolic syndrome alters the effectiveness of vaccines and even neutralizes them.
- Gut microbiota composition is associated with SARS-CoV-2 vaccine immunogenicity and adverse events; Siew C Ng et al, GUT 2022 Jun;71(6):1106-1116