Until now it was only a suspicion, now it has been proven: smokers literally pave the way for the novel corona virus with their vice.
According to this, smokers – just like people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – have a significantly greater risk of a severe Covid 19 course.
For the study published in the “European Respiratory Journal”, Janice Leung’s team initially examined samples from the lung tissue of 21 COPD patients and 21 healthy people. They differentiated whether they were smokers, non-smokers or former smokers.
The ACE2 receptor is the gateway for the novel coronavirus: Sars-CoV-2 enters the cell via it. However, it is not only in the lungs, but is also present in the heart. Thus, the viruses can also attack the heart muscle cells, where they can cause acute damage to the heart muscle. Several studies have shown that in patients with severe Covid 19 courses, a biomarker in the blood, which is released by destroyed and dying cardiac muscle cells – as is the case with a heart attack, for example – was often increased.
– It was shown that there was more ACE2 on the respiratory tract of the test persons with lung disease – an enzyme that is found primarily on the lung cells (see info box) and is considered to be a receptor for the novel coronavirus.
Molecules more relevant than damage
Since the ACE2 concentration was particularly high in smokers, Leung and her colleagues checked the results on the lung tissue of 249 healthy people. And there, too, they found more ACE2 receptors on the cells of the respiratory tract in the smokers.
“This could explain their greater risk of developing Covid-19 seriously,” said Leung. To date, the increased susceptibility of smokers and COPD patients to the previous damage to the lungs had been explained.
Those who stop now benefit
However, smokers do not simply have to surrender to their fate: “We also found that ex-smokers had similar ACE2 values to non-smokers.” This suggests “there is no better time to quit smoking.”
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