An international collaboration will drive research examining the impact of COVID-19 including the role of the oral microbiome in South Asian communities at King’s College London. The work will receive funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and India’s Department of Biotechnology and Ministry of Science and Technology.
The project will investigate why COVID-19 affects South Asians in different countries in different ways. It will support the rapid identification of information that may allow the development of new prevention steps, more targeted monitoring, and potentially new treatments to improve the outcome of COVID-19 in both India and the United Kingdom.
“It’s an extraordinary opportunity to learn how the immune systems of South Asians are confronting COVID-19 in India compared to how South Asians fared in London last year,” said Adrian Hayday of the Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine at King’s College London. “It’s basic science that has ceaselessly brought progress throughout this tragic pandemic, and we hope that this study can continue in that vein.”
The proposal is based on the hypothesis that mucosal immunity and the microbiome, as reflected in the oral cavity, plays a critical role in susceptibility to and severity of COVID-19, the researchers said, adding that there is a conformed disparity in the susceptibility to the virus in different ethnicities.
“Increasing evidence suggests that SARS-CoV-2 actively infects the mouth. Accordingly, whether it enters the circulation, causing more severe disease, may be related to oral health,” said Stephen Challacombe of the Centre of Host-Microbiome Interactions at King’s College London Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences.
“The oral microbiome interacts closely with us in health and disease. It is connected with lung disease, able to both protect and damage and varies considerably with ethnicity,” he continued.
“This study proposes that immunity at mucosal sites along with the oral microbiome plays a critical role in COVID-19 susceptibility and severity, and ethnic-specific differences in both these factors explains mortality variations between similar populations in the UK and India,” Challacombe said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the vital role of international science and innovation partnerships in collecting information, sharing knowledge and experiences, and developing rapid solutions to tackle worldwide problems,” said Christopher Smith, UKRI international champion.
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