After a controversial study at a major Paris hospital recommended that smokers may be less at risk of catching the coronavirus, French researchers are planning to test nicotine patches on patients and frontline health workers as reported by the Guardian.
“It’s an interesting possibility,” Health minister Olivier Veran said on France inter radio. “we will know more soon.”
According to initial data, those who smoke make up a disproportionately small number of people in hospital with COVID-19. For this reason, the researchers are analyzing whether the nicotine in cigarettes plays a part in impeding smokers from catching the illness while insisting they are not uplifting people to take up smoking, which has dire health risks.
Clinical trials of nicotine patches are anticipating approval from the country’s health authorities, and if they are found successful, they could help protect patients and healthcare workers.
Researchers Questioned four hundred and eighty patients.
Researchers from Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital questioned 480 patients who had tested positive for the virus. 350 of those patients were hospitalized and rest with more limited symptoms were being sent home to self-quarantine.
The fact shows that of those admitted to the hospital, 4.4% were everyday smokers. This group’s median age was 65. Of those who were sent home, 5.3% smoked, with a median age of 44.
The researchers saw that percentage of smokers among the patients was much less than that of the overall French population, the study reports.
Smokers might be less likely to develop a dire infection
The researchers wrote, “our cross-sectional strongly suggests that those who smoke regularly are much less likely to develop asymptomatic or severe infection with Sars-Cov-2 compared with the overall population. The effect is noteworthy. It divides the risk by 5 for ambulatory patients and by 4 for those admitted to the hospital. We rarely see this in medicine”.
While it is not for sure, the researchers think that nicotine could stop the virus from infecting cells or that nicotine might be averting the immune system from overreacting to the infection.
However, the researchers are not uplifting people to take up smoking. The study also states that smoking carries potentially dire health risks and kills 50% of those who take it up. Even if nicotine safeguards people from the virus, smokers often develop more severe symptoms due to the harmful effect of tobacco smoke.
Validated deaths of COVID-19 for selected countries
The researchers ascertained the number of smokers was much lower than in the overall population estimated by the French health care system – 40% of those aged between 44 and 53 and between 8.8% and 11.3% for those aged 65-75.
The renowned French neurobiologist Jean- Pierre Changeux, who analyzed the study, recommended that nicotine might prevent the virus from reaching cells in the body, obstructing its spread.
The findings are being ratified in a clinical study in which frontline health workers, hospital patients with the COVID-19 virus, and those in intensive care would be given nicotine patches.
The results verify a Chinese study published at the end of March in the New England Journal of medicine that suggested only 12.6% of 1000 people infected with the virus were smokers while the number of smokers in China is around 28%.
In France, stats from Paris hospitals showed that out of 11,000 patients admitted to hospital with Coronavirus, 8.5% were smokers while the total number of smokers in France is gauging at around 25.4%.
Smoking has severe pathological consequences and remains a dire danger for health. Yet, under controlled settings, nicotine agents could provide a streamlined treatment for an acute infection such as COVID-19.
How can nicotine prevent the virus from entering the body?
It is known that COVID-19 sticks to a protein in the human body called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (Ace 2), and the past research has shown that nicotine helps regulate ACE2 expression. The writers of the paper hypothesize a way in which this could contribute to reducing the hyper-inflammation thought to be responsible for some of the worst cases of COVID-19.
The researchers have stated that “Although the chemistry of tobacco smoke is complex, these stats are consistent with the hypothesis that its protective role takes place through direct action on nAChRs (nicotine acetylcholine receptors) expressed in neurons, immune cells, cardiac tissue, lungs, and blood vessels.”
In simple words, nicotine would prevent the virus from entering the body through neurons in the olfactory system or through the lung cells.
The study would have three objectives:
- To see if nicotine averts infection in health care workers.
- To see how it will work therapeutically and to reduce symptoms in hospitalized patients.
- To see its result on patients in intensive care.
“Smokers should try to quit without procrastinating.” – Dr. Sanjay Aggarwal, a senior consultant in respiratory and intensive care medicine.
“in fact, they should be uplifting all smokers to quit, as early reports from China shows that smokers who contact COVID-19 are more likely to develop the dire disease, to end up in intensive care and to die.”
“Smokers should try to quit without procrastinating.”
“The benefits from quitting are instant, including increased oxygen supply to the lungs, less risk of respiratory infections, and improvements in blood pressure.
Prolonged benefits include significant reductions in the risk of developing cancer, heart disease, and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
As with other COVID-19 studies, more research is required. And as with other studies detailing probable treatments for the coronavirus, you shouldn’t take matters into your own hands. Don’t start smoking or using a nicotine patch just because of a theory that says that substance can avert novel coronavirus infections or improve COVID-19 prognosis.