Researchers: Nicotine may prevent severe COVID-19 infection

Smokers underrepresented among those seriously ill with coronavirus

French researchers are set to test nicotine as a preventive treatment for COVID-19, according to several media reports, following the announcement that a study showed that smokers are underrepresented among people seriously affected by the coronavirus.

The French study was recently published in the online magazine Qeios and measures the frequency of smokers among coronavirus patients in France. This was based on previous reports from China, where smokers were clearly underrepresented among COVID-19 patients. The analysis was carried out back in March by a Greek researcher. Konstantinos Farsalinos. And even if the smokers in the study were severely affected by COVID-19 they accounted for only 12 per cent of the 1000 patients followed by the researchers. Since the smoking rate in China is 27 per cent, the researchers noticed an unexpected pattern. Smokers do not seem to develop complicated COVID-19 as often as they should, statistically speaking.

Fewer smokers in healthcare

The pattern is confirmed by the French study, which looked at 11,000 COVID-19 patients. Only 8.5 per cent of them were smokers, compared to 27 per cent in the general population. In the 44-53 age group, where the smoking rate is a staggering 40 per cent, the study showed the same thing. Only 8 per cent of patients requiring hospital care were smokers.

Want to test nicotine on patients and staff

But what does this mean? Well, researchers are wondering that too.

"Something about smoking seems to affect the risk of developing a more severe form of COVID-19. It's very clear," the researchers tell The Guardian.

To find out more, the researchers want to conduct a clinical study. Although the smoke from a cigarette contains thousands of substances, it is the nicotine that interests the researchers the most. They have now applied for authorisation to test whether the use of nicotine patches affects the development of COVID-19. The idea is that COVID patients and healthcare workers will use nicotine patches for a period of time. 

Do not recommend smoking

However, the researchers clarify that smoking is not recommended. Cigarette smoking kills 50 per cent of users and has a huge impact on health.

But for those who quit smoking using e-cigarettes or snus, the study will be interesting to follow. Niklas Linder is President of the Electronic Cigarette Industry Association. And according to him, the study could play a major role for vejpers.

"There have been an astonishing number of headlines about both cigarettes and e-cigarettes in the context of COVID-19, drawing big conclusions without any real data. Nicotine users seem to be underrepresented among those who need to seek medical care for COVID-19. This is the opposite of what we had previously assumed", says Mr Perez. Niklas Linder

However, he says it is unnecessary to speculate on the outcome.

'It is too early to draw any conclusions - it is still speculation and hypothesis. If you smoke cigarettes, you should try to quit. And take advantage of alternative nicotine products if necessary," says Mr Perez. Niklas Linder to Vejpkollen.

Update: According to Göteborgs Posten, the French researchers have now asked for the Karolinska Institute produce data on the impact of snus use on the incidence of COVID-19 in the population.

Sources for this article:
A nicotinic hypothesis for Covid-19 with preventive and therapeutic implications

COVID-19, a disease of the nicotinic cholinergic system? Nicotine may be protective

Smoking prevalence among hospitalised COVID-19 patients and its association with disease severity and mortality: an expanded re-analysis of a recent publication

Read also nicotine researcher Louise Adermark's analysis of nicotine and COVID-19:
'Might as well be a socio-economic factor'

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2 Comments on “Forskare: Nikotin kan hindra allvarlig COVID-19 infektion

    1. Thank you for your comment! Yes, that is correct. Even though the French researchers also relate to domestic data, Farsalinos was early on with the hypothesis. Made it clear in the text now.

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