Scientists have found a link between smoking and severe COVID-19. The study was conducted by American biologists from the University of California, Los Angeles. But it used to be thought that it was easier for smokers to transfer coronavirus infection. Who is right?
Cells “with fingers”
Scientists have created a cellular model of the airways of a smoking person and tested what happens when the coronavirus gets there. They published the results of the study in a scientific journal Cell Stem Cell.
“Our model mimics the upper airway — the first place the virus gets to,” explained scientists at the Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at the University of California.
It is in this part that cells with finger-like protrusions are located, pushing out special mucus to detect viruses, bacteria and toxins.
Stem cells for the experiment were taken from five young non-smokers. They cultivated a special culture, which was conditionally forced to “smoke”. Scientists treated her with cigarette smoke for three minutes a day for four days. This is how lung diseases have been tested for over a decade. The study leaders noted that the stem cell culture mimicked changes in the human airway perfectly.
“Smoking” and “non-smoking” cells were infected with coronavirus. It turned out that the former were more exposed to SARS-CoV-2. Several times more infected cells appeared on them.
This reaction is caused by the cigarette smoke itself. It blocks the immune system’s messenger proteins called interferons. These proteins push the infected cells in the body to resist the virus, and also “warn” healthy cells of possible infection.
“If you think of the airways as high walls protecting a castle, smoking is creating holes in those walls. It reduces the natural defenses that allow the virus to enter, ”said Bridget Gomperts, research leader and professor of pulmonary medicine and fellow University Cancer Center researcher.
Nicotine – protection?
There is a myth among the population of Russia and other countries that smoking, on the contrary, helps not to get sick with COVID-19 or to transfer the infection in a mild form. The legend came about due to the statements of several experts.
Back in the spring, Russian journalist Alexander Nevzorov said that smokers need not be afraid of the coronavirus. He drew this conclusion from a study in the journal of the European Academy of Allergology and Clinical Immunology. Many Russian doctors and scientists disagreed with him. For instance, Gennady Onishchenko argued with a journalist. He said that smokers should not only be afraid of the coronavirus, but also have to prepare for the fact that the disease will last longer and in a more severe form.
The benefits of smokers have been discussed and French scientists… At the end of May, they presented the results of their research, which indicated that cigarette lovers are 80% less likely to suffer from COVID-19 than people without this bad habit.
The French studied the behavior of patients at the Pitier-Salpetriere Hospital and the Pasteur Institute. From February 28 to April 9, 482 patients were hospitalized there, of which only 5% smoked daily. Scientists have suggested that nicotine creates some kind of protective barrier that has not yet been studied. The Chinese colleagues agreed with them. Doctors in Wuhan have noticed that smokers are 14 times less likely to be infected with coronavirus.
Yet most scientists, doctors and other experts agree that smoking not only does not protect against COVID-19, but also aggravates the course of the disease. The representatives of TRAIN.
On International Day of Smoking Cessation, November 19, Deputy Minister of Health of the Russian Federation Oleg Salagai said that not only tobacco, but also electronic cigarettes and hookah can affect the course of the disease. People with bad habits have a greater risk of getting on mechanical ventilation when infected with coronavirus.