About 25% of French adults smoke, and yet, only about 5% of patients in France hospitalized for COVID-19 are smokers. Similarly, in China, about 28% of the adult population smokes, yet only 13% of those hospitalized were smokers.
By Keith David Langston
Researchers believe that the answer is nicotine. It’s important to note that smoking is NOT healthy and possibly contributes to over 480,000 premature deaths per year in the US alone. With the coronavirus being especially deadly by attacking the lungs, you would think smokers would be at a higher risk. So, why are they seemingly at a lower risk?
Researches have two theories as to why:
1.) They believe that nicotine may be acting as an anti-inflammatory. One of the main causes of death from COVID-19 is a cytokine storm. Your body detects an infection in the lungs and causes inflammation to help kill the virus. However, the inflammation and inability to breathe are actually what ends up killing the person. If nicotine is inhibiting the inflammation of the lungs, it could be saving lives.
2.) Researchers are wondering if perhaps it’s because nicotine binds to protein receptors called ACE2. The coronavirus infects cells using these receptors, but if nicotine has already bonded to them, then the coronavirus wouldn’t be able to hitch a ride into a cell using them.
France is currently launching a study where they will be giving nicotine patches to first responders and COVID-19 patients to test if their hypothesis is correct.