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.
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