Background: The clinical outcomes of SARS-CoV-2 infection vary in severity, potentially influenced by the resident human microbiota. There is limited consensus on conserved microbiome changes in response to SARS-CoV-2 infection, with many studies focusing on severely ill individuals. This study aimed to assess the variation in the upper respiratory tract microbiome using saliva specimens in a cohort of individuals with primarily mild to moderate disease. Methods: In early 2020, a cohort of 831 adults without known SARS-CoV-2 infection was followed over a six-month period to assess the occurrence and natural history of SARS-CoV-2 infection. From this cohort, 81 participants with a SARS-CoV-2 infection, along with 57 unexposed counterparts were selected with a total of 748 serial saliva samples were collected for analysis. Total bacterial abundance, composition, population structure, and gene function of the salivary microbiome were measured using 16S rRNA gene and shotgun metagenomic sequencing. Findings: The salivary microbiome remained stable in unexposed individuals over the six-month study period, as evidenced by all measured metrics. Similarly, participants with mild to moderate SARS-CoV-2 infection showed microbiome stability throughout and after their infection. However, there were significant reductions in microbiome diversity among SARS-CoV-2-positive participants with severe symptoms early after infection. Over time, the microbiome diversity in these participants showed signs of recovery. Interpretation: These findings demonstrate the resilience of the salivary microbiome in relation to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Mild to moderate infections did not significantly disrupt the stability of the salivary microbiome, suggesting its ability to maintain its composition and function. However, severe SARS-CoV-2 infection was associated with temporary reductions in microbiome diversity, indicating the limits of microbiome resilience in the face of severe infection. Funding: This project was supported in part by Danone North America and grants from the National Institutes of Health, United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104731
StatePublished - Aug 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


  • Microbiome
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Saliva
  • Upper respiratory track


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