In most countries, spread of COVID-19 has been mostly curbed due to successful implementation of personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitization practices, and social distancing. However, a major paradigm shift in hygienic practices has occurred, which in the short term is helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but in the long term, populations might be more susceptible to developing gastrointestinal (GI) inflammatory diseases and metabolic syndromes because of gut dysbiosis.
The COVID-19 pandemic initially led to major shortages in PPE and sanitization products. Furthermore, many individuals have adopted much more extreme cleaning protocols. They have also opted for high-strength antibacterial sanitizers that are capable of significantly altering the bacterial diversity in our environments. Lastly, social distancing has completely halted the possibility of transferring healthy bacteria from person to person. All of these factors are expected to result in populations being more susceptible to GI dysbiosis, a state of unbalanced GI bacterial communities that promotes inflammation and is associated with GI inflammatory diseases (colitis, IBD, IBS, and Crohn’s) and metabolic syndromes (obesity, diabetes).
A leading microbiome researcher, Brett Finlay, warned the world about the growing dangers of being “too clean” in his book Let Them Eat Dirt. He writes about the importance of introducing “good” and diverse bacteria to the GI tract early in one’s life in order to defend against GI dysbiosis. Maintaining a symbiotic relationship with your GI microbiome is just as important. Increasing usage of non-prescribed antibiotics, and hospital-grade antimicrobial sanitizers in homes, will not just affect the youngest generation; rather, everyone will be more susceptible to dysbiosis. Therefore, GlobalData anticipates a growing need for endoscopy devices, diabetic care devices, and GI microbiome sampling devices in the future.
GI inflammatory diseases often require endoscopy visualization in order to determine the severity and treatment plans for those affected. GlobalData also anticipates an increase in the rate of obesity and diabetes. Glucose monitoring devices and insulin pumps are expected to see a greater need due to the close relationship of dysbiosis and the development of diabetes. Lastly, medical devices that provide bacterial sampling of physiologically unique segments of the GI tract have the potential to increase the efficacies of probiotic therapies and for characterizing the unique features of a patient’s dysbiotic state. A new ingestible sampling device has been developed at Purdue University in partnership with Eli Lilly and Company. The device has an outer shell that can be customized to dissolve at specific pH levels, allowing for targeted sampling of bacteria within the GI tract while forgoing invasive techniques. This medical device has potential for widespread use in healthcare and may accelerate the growth of microbiome-associated medical devices.