Researchers want to replace cigarettes with nicotine medicines in hospitals
Another large study supports the hypothesis that nicotine protects against COVID-19. At the same time, researchers suspect that smokers who are hospitalised lose any protection - when nicotine intake stops.
"This would partly explain why smokers are more severely affected by the disease once they are admitted for treatment," the researchers write.
Smokers are often more severely affected by COVID-19 than others. But they are also less likely to contract the disease, compared to non-smokers. And nicotine can play an important role. This is shown by the largest study to date examining the link between smoking, nicotine and COVID-19
The study was conducted by a group of Greek researchers who analysed more than 11 000 cases, including 960 smokers, from all over the world. The conclusion is that smokers are under-represented among those hospitalised.
"Smokers were five times less than they should be given the proportion of smokers in the population," the researchers write.
Why nicotine inhibits Covid-19
Similar studies previously attracted attention in France. There too, smokers were underrepresented among COVID-19 patients. However, the analysis shows that those smokers who actually receive hospital care are more likely to be hospitalised. 60 per cent higher risk to develop a more serious disease.
Scientists speculate on the causes. But according to a recently presented hypothesis, smokers, or rather nicotine users, may have protection against initial infection. Nicotine seems to inhibit the cells that the coronavirus usually uses to enter the body. Smokers constantly add new nicotine to their bodies, reducing the risk of becoming infected.
The immune system is weakened by nicotine
A further aspect of COVID-19 and nicotine is the effect of nicotine on the immune system. The body deals with the virus by attacking the infected cells. cells with cytokines. If the infection is advanced and the number of affected cells is high, a 'cytokine storm' can also damage healthy cells. This can lead to a life-threatening condition. Here too, nicotine can have a protective effect, according to the researchers. Nicotine inhibits the production of cytokines. This makes the cyclosporine worm less 'aggressive' and reduces the risk of damage. There have already been attempts to treat COVID-19 by inhibiting the immune system. relevant in other studies. But the nicotine trail is another hypothesis that needs to be investigated clinically, say the researchers.
Should stop smoking anyway
"This would partly explain why smokers seem to develop a more severe form of COVID-19 once they are hospitalised for treatment. At that point, nicotine intake disappears completely and any protective effects cease." The researchers write.
According to the researchers, smokers should still try to quit smoking. At the same time, the researchers are calling for more resources for research that explores the possibility of using medicated nicotine in the treatment of some COVID-19 patients. For example, smokers.