Although the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 shifted the focus of scientists’ research worldwide in 2020, major advances were also made in the field of the gut microbiome. In the context of COVID-19, it is important to ensure that people’s immune systems are well supported. In this regard, good nutrition becomes an important pillar in caring for the immune system, which is closely influenced by the composition and functional diversity of the gut microbiome. In fact, awareness of the important role of nutrition, the gut microbiome and the immune system led to the launch of two GMFH campaigns with the hashtag #GutToKnowYou on behalf of World Digestive Health Day 2020 on May 29 and World Microbiome Day 2020 on June 27.

Beyond the role of nutrition in immunity and host susceptibility to COVID-19, a wealth of key developments in gut microbiome science were registered in 2020. They included new mechanisms that support the health benefits of fermented foods and the role of the gut microbiome as a marker not only of gut health, but also healthy aging and metabolic health. In this regard, scientists identified novel intestinal bioactive lipids and microbial signatures in metabolic tissues that could represent a novel paradigm for obesity and diabetes.

A new synbiotic consensus was also published in 2020, led by a diverse panel of experts. The definition of a synbiotic discusses which microorganisms must be targeted by the substrate in a synbiotic, defines two distinct types of synbiotic depending on whether each component works independently or together to achieve health benefits, and updates synbiotic efficacy based on human intervention studies.

Finally, it should also be acknowledged that not all diseases exhibit the same degree of gut microbiota alteration, and specific microbiota signatures are difficult to identify. When identifying a causal role for the gut microbiota in most diseases, scientists suggest that reverse translational approaches to test the role of defined microbial communities or their functions in relevant mouse models, organoids and other research tools should be employed rather than focusing on individual approaches.

Milestones in the gut microbiome in 2020 were matched by increased interest among the GMFH digital community in cutting-edge studies exploring how gut microbial communities could be harnessed to prevent and treat gastrointestinal diseases and beyond. In fact, this scenario captured the attention of 111,100 members with more than 1,240,000 visits in 2020.

So why not take a look at this “2020 Year at a glance” report to find out more? And don’t forget to keep following us to stay up-to-date with breakthroughs in the field in 2021.