Will smoking be a risk factor for COVID-19?

As per new research in France, where further experiments are expected to check whether the drug could be used to prevent or treat the deadly disease, nicotine could protect humans from contracting the coronavirus.

Updated: Apr 24, 2020 18:10 IST

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Niranjani Jesentha Kumari P

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Nicotine

The results came after researchers at a top hospital in Paris tested 343 patients with coronavirus and 139 people with milder symptoms infected with the illness.

They found that a limited number of them smoked in the general population of France compared with smoking rates of about 35 percent. 

The research repeated similar results published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine indicating that 12.6 percent of the 1,000 people infected were smokers in China. According to the World Health Organization, this was a much lower figure than the number of daily smokers in the general population of China, around 26 percent.

The researchers are pending authorization from France's health authorities to perform further clinical trials. 

We intend to use nicotine patches on health staff at the Paris-based hospital Pitie-Salpetriere — where the initial study was done — to see if it prevents them from catching the virus.

The researchers are investigating whether nicotine can help avoid "cytokine waves," a rapid immune system overreaction that scientists suspect may play a key role in fatal COVID-19 cases. Tobacco is France's number one killer, with an estimated 75,000 smoking-related deaths each year.