Individuals with severe COVID-19 are more likely to experience complications with their immune system compared to those with mild symptoms of the virus, latest research has revealed.

Scientists from King’s College London tested the gastrointestinal tract of the people who died after contracting the coronavirus during the first three months of the pandemic.

Intestinal microbial populations stay healthy due to lymphoid tissue in the gut, which is a necessity for good health, the research has reported.

During the study, the academics found that the Peyer’s Patches – a system which controls the structures of the microbial communities – was significantly damaged amongst those who had died with severe COVID-19.

Prior research has shown that symptoms of severe COVID-19 include breathing difficulties and a high temperature, as well as vomiting, diarrhoea and nausea, which highlights how the virus impacts the gastrointestinal tract.

Senior academic, Professor Jo Spencer said: “This study shows that in severe COVID-19, this key component of the immune system is disrupted, whether the intestine itself is infected with SARS-CoV-2 or not.

“This would likely contribute to the disturbances in intestinal microbial populations in COVID-19 reported by others.”

The analysis of the samples identified that the composition in the Peyer’s Patches had changed the levels of the coronavirus.

In addition, this alteration caused a reduction of the germinal centres, which spreads antibody producing cells in people who died with the virus.

Peyer’s Patches is a grouping of lymphoid follicles that line the small intestines, according to the report.

The findings also identify that vaccinations are not beneficial when a person has developed severe COVID-19 as the immune system is already damaged.

“In the future it will be important to understand factors driving such lymphoid tissue dysregulation in severe inflammatory responses,” said Professor Spencer.

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