Undoubtedly, because of its nicotine effects, smoking is the world’s biggest public health problem. More than 8 million people die from it worldwide every year. However, new studies during the corona crisis suggest that smokers have a significantly lower risk than others of developing seriously Covid-19. French researchers are now said to be trying to use nicotine patches on patients with coronavirus to see if this could really offer protection.
Research nicotine effects on infections
Researchers at the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris found that few people who were hospitalized or at home with Covid-19 smoked regularly compared to the general population. It would be possible that nicotine’s effects protect people from the virus. According to the team, however, there is a higher risk of complications in smokers who have become infected with coronavirus. This can happen due to the toxic effects of tobacco smoke on the lungs.
Paris researchers surveyed 480 patients who tested positive, including 350 who had been hospitalized and 130 who had less severe symptoms and were allowed to go home. Further studies are planned to test whether the medicine can use this substance to prevent or treat the deadly disease.
Of those hospitalized with an average age of 65 years, only 4.4% were regular smokers. In comparison, of those who went home, with an average age of 44 years, 5.3% smoked. In the general population, 40% of 44 to 53 year olds and 11.3% of 65 to 75 year olds smoke. French neurobiologist Jean-Pierre Changeux, who reviewed the study, suspects that the nicotine could prevent the coronavirus from reaching cells in the body and preventing it from spreading. The chemical can also decrease the overreaction of the body’s immune system, which has been seen in the most severe cases. The researchers now want to review the results, which apparently also confirm the results of a Chinese study, in a clinical study.
Prospects for treatment
Studies showing frontline health workers, infected hospital patients and people in intensive care receiving nicotine patches are currently awaiting approval from French health authorities. While French scientists believe smoking poses serious health risks, they say nicotine could be a treatment for coronavirus in controlled environments. Hence, they plan to put nicotine patches on hospital patients and the general population to test their hypothesis. In addition, the researchers want to try chewing and smelling tobacco products.
The results are similar to data from China last month in the New England Journal of Medicine, AFP reported. Out of 1,000 people infected in China, around 12.6% were smokers. This is compared to about 26% in the general population, according to the news agency. While the disease is mild in many cases, severe COVID-19 infection involves an inflammatory response.
Doctors commonly refer to these as a storm of cytokine. Such a crisis is characterized by the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines that can lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome and death. The scientists mediate the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway through nAChRs and can thus control inflammation. It acts as an immune modulator through bidirectional communication between the immune system and the nervous system.
Controversy over nicotine effects in COVID-19
In addition, according to the WHO, smoking in all its forms has a significant impact on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. The COVID-19 virus can harm the same systems. Lung damage from smoking makes those infected with COVID-19 more susceptible to bacterial and viral lung infections. Research data from China, where the pandemic began, showed that people with health problems in these two systems caused by tobacco use were at higher risk of developing severe symptoms of the COVID-19 virus.
In summary, it should be noted that articles that directly or indirectly support the attempt to segregate tobacco from the COVID-19 pandemic are mainly based on cases that have not yet been substantiated. In addition, researchers should consider any link between the authors of each article and the tobacco industry. Hence, all conclusions about the relationship between smoking and the COVID-19 virus are still early. At the same time, scientists should consider all available data. Therefore, publications should not lead, directly or indirectly, to behavior that has been found to be harmful to health.