Previously, we reported that immunomodulatory lactobacilli, nasally administered, benefi-cially regulated the lung antiviral innate immune response induced by Toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3) activation and improved protection against the respiratory pathogens, influenza virus and respiratory syncytial virus in mice. Here, we assessed the immunomodulatory effects of viable and non-viable Lactiplantibacillus plantarum strains in human respiratory epithelial cells (Calu-3 cells) and the capacity of these immunobiotic lactobacilli to reduce their susceptibility to the acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection. Immunobiotic L. plantarum MPL16 and CRL1506 differentially modulated IFN-β, IL-6, CXCL8, CCL5 and CXCL10 production and IFNAR2, DDX58, Mx1 and OAS1 expression in Calu-3 cells stimulated with the TLR3 agonist poly(I:C). Furthermore, the MPL16 and CRL1506 strains increased the resistance of Calu-3 cells to the challenge with SARS-CoV-2. L. plantarum MPL16 induced these beneficial effects more efficiently than the CRL1506 strain. Of note, neither non-viable MPL16 and CRL1506 strains nor the non-immunomodulatory strains L. plantarum CRL1905 and MPL18 could modify the resistance of Calu-3 cells to SARS-CoV-2 infection or the immune response to poly(I:C) challenge. To date, the potential beneficial effects of immunomodulatory probiotics on SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 outcome have been extrapolated from studies carried out in the context of other viral pathogens. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of the ability of immunomodulatory lactobacilli to positively influence the replication of the new coronavirus. Further mechanistic studies and in vivo experiments in animal models of SARS-CoV-2 infection are necessary to identify specific strains of beneficial immunobiotic lactobacilli like L. plantarum MPL16 or CRL1506 for the prevention or treatment of the COVID-19.
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