Even those who are unfamiliar with the benefits of probiotics are likely aware of where and how they're used, such as in yogurt cultures and dietary supplements.

It is those who don't include probiotics in their daily routines who Rutgers University is now seeking for a 54-person clinical research study to determine if the live bacteria can boost immune defense, including antibody levels, against COVID-19.

To be otherwise eligible for the study, participants must have tested positive for COVID at least four months ago, and they cannot yet have been vaccinated.

Daniel Horton, assistant professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and lead investigator for the study, said exposure to the virus and a reliance on natural antibodies are the keys to judging the probiotics' potential effectiveness.

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"In the first few months after infection, there are some changes in the level of immunity, but it seems that that level of immune response does level off after several months," Horton said. "We actually are looking for people who don't normally take probiotics for their health, to see whether taking these particular probiotics do help boost the immune system."

The study, done in partnership with Vault Health, does not require participants to leave their homes. Horton said a Vault Health coordinator will check in at three-week intervals over a period of six weeks, taking measurements and samples.

He expects results to begin to take shape shortly thereafter.

"Once we have everyone enrolled and completing the study procedures, we'll proceed very quickly to analyzing the data," Horton said.

The study may be expanding to states as far away as Georgia, Minnesota, or Texas, but Horton said right now it is mainly a Garden State operation.

"So far most participants are from New Jersey," he said. "We are looking to enroll from several states in addition, including New York and Pennsylvania."

Rutgers is accepting prospective participants on a staggered basis, so anyone who is qualified is asked to call 929-390-4709, or click here.

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