Prevotella, an intestinal bacteria linked to Covid-19 mortality? Beware of hasty conclusions


MAGNIFYING – Messages relayed in particular on WhatsApp indicate that Covid-19 would infect an intestinal bacterium, Prevotella, which would explain its mortality. Experts are nevertheless very critical: they question the scientific foundations of these claims.

Perhaps you have received this message, widely relayed online for several days and which is broadcast at high speed via WhatsApp conversations. What does it indicate? That “several teams in several countries (in particular in China, in France – in Lille – or in the USA) have made a major discovery which offers great hope of treatment of Covid”.

Researchers have discovered that the virus “will not kill directly, but through an intestinal bacterium it infects, Prevotella”. As a result, “this infected bacterium, which has become virulent, is said to trigger an immune hyper-reaction which decays the lungs and kills the patient”. What explain among other things, according to this long message, the effectiveness of Professor Raoult and throw a little more stigma on the media, which “silence this major discovery”.

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Arguments contradicted by researchers

Contrary to what we could say Internet users, this alleged discovery was not transmitted by the Elsan group, one of the leaders in private hospitalization in France. Contacted by LCI, he refutes any implication and simply explains that some of his doctors learned about this message via a WhatsApp conversation. He quickly published a disclaimer on social networks.

What about the teams of researchers involved in this research and highlighted in this text, especially that of Lille? After a series of checks and phone calls, Checknews ensures that no scientific publication has so far highlighted a link between Covid-19 and Prevotella. Only an Indian researcher, Sandeep Chakraborty, seems to defend this thesis for several months, without his work having received the support of the scientific community. In France, a professor of SVT came to the same conclusions and he is now trying to shed light on these ideas.

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Sciences and Future points out that a Chinese team highlighted in January that “the rate of Prevotella would be higher in patients with Covid-19”. However, we note that no reading committee has supervised the results of this work, which is based on a small sample of three patients, without setting up a control group.

“It is very insufficient” to draw conclusions, explained Harry Sokol, professor of gastroenterology and nutrition at the Saint-Antoine hospital in Paris. This microbiota specialist also points out that “we cannot assume that azithromycin is an effective antibiotic. The latest studies even show that this is false. So from the start, this theory is based on two points departures that are wrong. “

Bacteria also present in children

Among the arguments used to highlight the role of Prevotella, we find the fact that it would be absent in children, which would explain why Covid-19 spares the youngest. But here again, experts deplore premature conclusions. “It is not present in the first days of life but it will develop in the first six months”, reacted Professor Joël Doré, research director at Inrae.

Release observes that the Indian researcher bases much of his theory on the fact that Prevotella “is found in a massive and abnormal way in the lungs of Covid + patients hospitalized”. Experts interviewed by the newspaper put these observations into perspective and called for restraint. “The presence of Prevotella in the lungs is not considered surprising, since it is a bacterium frequent in the upper respiratory tract in healthy patients, and it is encountered in small quantities in the lower respiratory tract Detecting them from samples taken from patients says nothing about their involvement in a pathogenic process. “

To date, in the absence of rigorous scientific studies and publications in peer-reviewed journals, these theories are not considered credible by French experts, who believe that such a path can be explored provided not make hasty or erroneous conclusions. Asked the Directorate General of Health also indicates to be aware of these assumptions, studied “like many other tracks”.

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There is therefore no evidence today to suggest that Covid-19 would kill because of Prevotella infection. If the paths leading to the intestinal microbiota are not to be ruled out, experts believe that the arguments put forward by the defenders of this hypothesis are partially contradicted by the facts. They also point out that the absence of a rigorous methodology study does not allow such conclusions to be drawn.

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