Bacteriophage-like behavior of SARS-CoV-2

New study suggests that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, exhibits bacteriophage-like behavior, meaning it may not only interact with and provide a reservoir for viral persistence and replication, but also potentially replicate within bacteria in the gut microbiome during both acute and post-COVID phases. This novel mechanism opens new avenues for understanding the complex dynamics between viruses and the human microbiota.

Early use of certain antibiotic combinations like amoxicillin/clavulanic acid plus rifaximin or azithromycin plus rifaximin is proposed to target and inhibit viral replication within the gut bacterial populations.

The study found that early initiation of these antibiotic therapies (within the first 3 days) resulted in significantly shorter recovery times and higher blood oxygen saturation levels in COVID-19 patients, both vaccinated and unvaccinated.

Patients who received early antibiotics were less likely to develop long COVID symptoms according to the study.

Many viruses can interact with and exploit bacteria, but COVID-19's proposed bacteriophage-like behavior with gut microbes appears to be a novel mechanism. Could there be also social-like interactions reminiscent of bacteriophages? Phages are known to engage in cooperation, communication, and cheating as shown for Pseudomonas phage Ø6,  Pseudomonas fluorescens phage Ø2, and other viruses of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Acinetobacter baumannii, Escherichia coli, and Klebsiella pneumoniae. 

Understanding these social evolution aspects can provide valuable insights into the mechanisms driving viral replication and persistence within the gut microbiota.

REFERENCES

Brogna C, Montano L, Zanolin ME, Bisaccia DR, Ciammetti G, Viduto V, Fabrowski M, Baig AM, Gerlach J, Gennaro I, Bignardi E, Brogna B, Frongillo A, Cristoni S, Piscopo M. A retrospective cohort study on early antibiotic use in vaccinated and unvaccinated COVID-19 patients. J Med Virol. 2024 Mar;96(3):e29507. doi: 10.1002/jmv.29507. PMID: 38504586.

Brogna C, Brogna B, Bisaccia DR, Lauritano F, Marino G, Montano L, Cristoni S, Prisco M, Piscopo M. Could SARS-CoV-2 have bacteriophage behavior or induce the activity of other bacteriophages?. Vaccines. 2022 May;10(5):708.

Petrillo M, Querci M, Brogna C, Ponti J, Cristoni S, Markov PV, Valsesia A, Leoni G, Benedetti A, Wiss T, Van den Eede G. Evidence of SARS-CoV-2 bacteriophage potential in human gut microbiota. F1000Research. 2022 Mar 9;11:292.

Brogna C, Costanzo V, Brogna B, Bisaccia DR, Brogna G, Giuliano M, Montano L, Viduto V, Cristoni S, Fabrowski M, Piscopo M. Analysis of bacteriophage behavior of a human RNA virus, SARS-CoV-2, through the integrated approach of immunofluorescence microscopy, proteomics and D-amino acid quantification. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2023 Feb 15;24(4):3929.

Domingo-Calap P, Mora-Quilis L, Sanjuán R. Social bacteriophages. Microorganisms. 2020 Apr 7;8(4):533.

Turner, P.E.; Chao, L. Prisoner’s dilemma in an RNA virus. Nature 1999, 398, 441–443


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