Nicotine, potential weapon against the coronavirus?

La nicotine, arme potentielle contre le coronavirus?

22 April 2020 13h33

Updated at 14h35


Nicotine, potential weapon against the coronavirus?

Brigitte Castelnau

Agence France-Presse


PARIS — The nicotine could have a protective effect against infection by the new coronavirus, argue researchers in France, where trials of preventive and therapeutic will be undertaken with nicotine patches to check it.

The hypothesis is supported by the low number of smokers among the patients of the Covid-19 hospitalized, according to several studies around the world (with rates ranging from 1.4% to 12.5%).

A new French study on 350 patients admitted to hospital and 150 more light which have been consulted, all with the Covid-19 (confirmed by test RT-PCR), provides a confirmation of this under-representation of smokers among the patients.

“Among these patients, there were only 5% of smokers”, told AFP professor of internal medicine, Zahir Amoura, the author of this study, “80% less smokers among patients Covid that in general population of same sex and same age”.

“The assumption is that nicotine, by binding to the cellular receptor used by the sars coronavirus, prevents, or restrains it from attaching and thus penetrate into the cells and spread, explains to the AFP, the Pr Jean-Pierre Changeux of the Pasteur Institute and the Collège de France.

This neurobiologist world-renowned specialist of the nicotinic receptors, is the co-author of an article on this subject in the records of the Biology of the Academy of sciences, of which he is a member.

Attention, stamps addictive

The hypothesis of the nicotine, however, remains to be proved. Hence the importance of clinical trials.

As soon as the final green light obtained, stamps the nicotine will be administered in different dosages in three trials, at the hospital of The Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris: preventive for caregivers, to see if it protects them; in therapeutic hospitalized patients in medicine, to try to decrease their symptoms; and, finally, of the serious patients in the intensive care unit, details of the Pr Amoura.

Nicotine could reduce the hyper-inflammation, the “storms of the cytokine”, which seem to play a key role in severe cases of Covid-19 and leave the medicine relatively helpless.

According to the Pr Amoura, patients hospitalized smokers may see their condition worsen due to cold turkey withdrawal from tobacco, but this needs to be checked.

However, these studies do not encourage the population to scramble on cigarettes and stamps. Smoking impairs the lungs, and this is not good for the health (cancers, stroke, chronic bronchitis, serious…), reminding the doctors.

It is”an interesting track, among other tracks of clinical research,” said Wednesday the minister of Health Olivier Véran.

While cautioning against tobacco, which kills it with “over 70,000 deaths per year, of real in France”, as well as against the temptations of self-medication of non-smokers with stamps recalling that nicotine is “a product addictive”.

Varieties of symptoms

The Pr Bertrand Dautzenberg, pulmonologist, judge “important” as an analysis of the national Database of health will confirm or not the existence of a link between the Covid-19 and the intake of nicotine replacement therapies (gums, patches, etc.) on order, which are reimbursed in France. Studies on the Covid-19 should be of interest to both the smoking, the vaping (with or without nicotine) and nicotine drug, according to this specialist.

The central role of the receptor in question, the “nicotinic receptor of acetylcholine”, in the spread of the virus, explaining in particular the variety of symptoms of the Covid-19, and in particular the loss of sense of smell and neurological disorders, up to, possibly, respiratory arrest brutal (observed to the eighth day), argue the researchers.

Various types of nicotinic receptor present in neurons, immune cells (including macrophages), the tissue of the heart, lungs, and blood vessels.

In obesity and diabetes, the alteration of the nicotinic receptor is at the origin of a persistent form of inflammation. It could be amplified by infection by the virus SARS-CoV-2. This hypothesis would explain the frequency of these two co-morbidities among cases of severe Covid-19, reports to the French Academy of sciences.

Other substances may act on the nicotinic receptors, to prevent the spread of the virus, for example ivermectin, but this remains to be proved, note the researchers.

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