Study for 'The Garden Court' (1889) by Sir Edward Burne–Jones. The Birmingham Museum. CC0.

A new approach to reducing insomnia in long COVID patients

4 July 2024

A recent study by the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Medicine and the Microbiota I-Center (MagIC) has found that faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) can significantly alleviate insomnia in long COVID patients.

The research underscores the potential of microbiota modulation—the alteration or manipulation of the composition and activity of the gut microbiota—as an effective treatment for sleep and mood disturbances associated with long COVID.

The study, published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, involved 60 long COVID patients with insomnia. Participants were divided into two groups: one receiving FMT from healthy donors, and a control group receiving no treatment.

Results showed that 40% of the FMT group experienced remission of insomnia symptoms three months after treatment, compared to only 10% in the control group. Additionally, improvements in anxiety levels, sleep quality, and daytime sleepiness were observed in the FMT group.

This pilot study is the first to suggest the effectiveness of FMT in treating long COVID-related insomnia. It marks a step forward in understanding the gut-brain axis and its impact on sleep health, and indicates that further clinical trials are justified.

The research team included Dr Su Qi from the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics Medicine, Professor Francis KL Chan, Professor Siew Ng, Croucher Professor of Medical Sciences and Director of MagIC and Raphaela Iris Lau.

Francis Chan was awarded a Croucher Senior Medical Research Fellowship in 2007. Siew Ng was awarded a Croucher Senior Medical Research Fellowship in 2020 and was the subject of a recent Croucher News feature article