Covid-19 infection alters the microbiome: Elite athletes and sedentary patients have similar bacterial flora

Gergely Babszky, Ferenc Torma, Dora Aczel, Peter Bakonyi, Zoltan Gombos, Janos Feher, Dóra Szabó, Balázs Ligeti, Sándor Pongor, Laszlo Balogh, Anikó Pósa, Zsolt Radak*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Regular exercise can upgrade the efficiency of the immune system and beneficially alter the composition of the gastro-intestinal microbiome. We tested the hypothesis that active athletes have a more diverse microbiome than sedentary subjects, which could provide better protection against COVID-19 during infection. Twenty active competing athletes (CA) (16 male and 4 females of the national first and second leagues), aged 24.15 ± 4.7 years, and 20 sedentary subjects (SED) (15 male and 5 females), aged 27.75 ± 7.5 years, who had been diagnosed as positive for COVID-19 by a PCR test, served as subjects for the study. Fecal samples collected five to eight days after diagnosis and three weeks after a negative COVID-19 PCR test were used for microbiome analysis. Except for two individuals, all subjects reported very mild and/or mild symptoms of COVID-19 and stayed at home under quarantine. Significant differences were not found in the bacterial flora of trained and untrained subjects. On the other hand, during COVID-19 infection, at the phylum level, the relative abundance of Bacteroidetes was elevated during COVID-19 compared to the level measured three weeks after a negative PCR test (p < 0.05) when all subjects were included in the statistical analysis. Since it is known that Bacteroidetes can suppress toll-like receptor 4 and ACE2-dependent signaling, thus enhancing resistance against pro-inflammatory cytokines, it is suggested that Bacteroidetes provide protection against severe COVID-19 infection. There is no difference in the microbiome bacterial flora of trained and untrained subjects during and after a mild level of COVID-19 infection.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1577
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Oct


  • Bacteroidetes
  • COVID-19
  • Exercise
  • Inflammation
  • Microbiome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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