Covid-19: Researchers Question Hypothesis of a Protective Effect of Nicotine

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Nicotine could have a protective effect against infection by the new coronavirus, advance researchers in France where preventive and therapeutic trials will be undertaken with nicotine patches

Researchers support the low number of smokers (5%) among Covid-19 hospitalised patients found in various studies.

Are smokers less likely to get coronavirus? The question arouses fantasy and rumours since a team from the Parisian hospital of La Pitié-Salpêtrière announced that preventive and therapeutic trials will be undertaken with nicotine patches.

Researchers are investigating whether or not this toxic molecule from the tobacco plant can be used against Covid-19

5% of smokers among the sick

The hypothesis is supported by the low number of smokers among Covid-19 hospitalized patients found in various studies around the world and its solid confirmation provided by a new French study of 350 hospitalized patients and 150 milder who consulted, all with Covid-19 (confirmed by PCR test).

“Of these, there were only 5% of smokers,” said the professor of internal medicine Zahir Amoura, who led the latest study. This represents “80% fewer smokers in Covid patients than in the general population of the same sex and the same age”.

“The hypothesis is that nicotine by binding to the cellular receptor used by the coronavirus prevents or retains it from attaching to it ” and therefore from entering cells and spreading in the organism, explained to AFP Professor Jean-Pierre Changeux, from the Institut Pasteur and the Collège de France.

Read also: 21,340 deaths, 5,218 patients in serious condition: the figures for the coronavirus epidemic in France

Don’t rush on tobacco

As soon as the final green light is obtained, with the support of the Minister of Health Olivier Véran , nicotinic patches will be administered at different dosages in three trials, explains Pr Amoura:

  • Preventively to caregivers, to see if it protects them
  • In therapy to patients hospitalized in medicine, to try to reduce their symptoms
  • In therapy to serious patients in intensive care

According to him, hospitalized smoking patients could see their condition worsen due to an abrupt cessation of tobacco, but this is worth checking.

However, these studies should not encourage people to rush to smoke. Smoking damages the lungs and it is not good for health (cancer, heart attacks, etc.), remind doctors to dissuade them from rushing to the tobacco shop.

The central role of the receptor in question, the “nicotinic acetylcholine receptor”, in the spread of the virus, would explain in particular the variety of symptoms of Covid-19, including loss of smell and neurological disorders, the researchers say.

Read also: Since the start of containment, the sale of tobacco has exploded in France

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