World No Tobacco Day 31st May 2020

Hyderabad: The current pandemic has been novel in many ways and the data we have is limited. In the current pandemic, scientists have noted significant differences in how people respond to infection with SARS-CoV-2. 

Three groups are more likely to develop severe illness: men, smokers, elderly CDC and WHO list smoking as one of the risk factors for COVID-19 because smoking depresses immune function.

Smokers have higher expression of ACE2 and which signals inflammation. Smokers have more secretory cells making them susceptible to severe infections. Because corona virus attacks the lungs, it could be a serious threat to those who smoke tobacco or who vape.

According to WHO, COVID-19 is an infectious disease that primarily attacks lungs. Smoking impairs lung function making it harder for the body to fight off coronaviruses and other diseases.

Contrary to this, findings from a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last month suggested that only 12.6 percent of 1,000 people infected in China were smokers. That was a much lower figure than the number of regular smokers in China’s general population, about 26 per cent. The theory is that nicotine could adhere to cell receptors, therefore blocking the virus from entering cells and spreading in the body 

Smokers could be living on the edge of contracting Covid-19 infection, according to a study by scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Jodhpur, exploring the neuro invasive nature of the deadly coronavirus.

Another study from IIT Jodhpur has pointed out that coronavirus is known to interact with a specific human receptor known as hACE2 (Human Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme-2) which is supposed to be the entry point of the virus and has its presence in lungs and nasal mucosa.

The brain is also known to express this receptor. The likeliness of COVID-19 patients to contract neurological infections can be exacerbated by smoking.

Dr. Latha Sharma,
Consultant Pulmonologist,
KIMS Hospitals, Secunderabad.

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