Gut and airway microbiota and their role in COVID-19 infection and pathogenesis: a scoping review

Tik Fung Dave Liu, Elena Philippou, Ourania Kolokotroni, Georgios Siakallis, Kenan Rahima, Constantina Constantinou

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: The SARS-CoV-2 virus is responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers have been studying the pathogenesis of the virus with the aim to improve our current diagnosis and management strategies. The microbiota have been proposed to play a key role in the pathogenesis of the disease. Purpose: To investigate and report on the current available evidence on any associations between the gut and/or airway microbiota and the pathogenesis of COVID-19. Methods: Using a predefined protocol in compliance with the PRISMA guidelines, a search was conducted on MEDLINE, Science Direct, DOAJ and Cochrane databases on primary research studies assessing the association between COVID-19 infection and the gut and/or airway microbiota. Results: Twenty-two studies were included in the current review; nineteen studies concluded an association between the gut and/or airway dysbiosis and SARS-CoV-2, while 3 studies failed to observe a significant association between the airway microbiome and SARS-CoV-2 infection. Specifically, most studies reported a decrease in microbial diversity and therefore development of intestinal dysbiosis in COVID-19-positive patients compared to healthy controls as well as a possible association between increased intestinal dysbiosis and disease severity. Conclusion: During infection with SARS-CoV-2, there are significant changes in the composition of the gut and airway microbiota. Furthermore, the gut microbiota may have a more important role than the airway microbiota in COVID-19 infection. In the future, studies should be more carefully designed to derive more conclusive evidence on the role of the gut and airway microbiota following infection with SARS-CoV-2 which will lead to the formulation of better management strategies in combating COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Airway microbiota
  • COVID-19
  • Dysbiosis
  • Gut microbiota
  • SARS-CoV-2


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