France to trial nicotine patches to prevent COVID-19
France is hoping to trial nicotine patches on healthcare workers after a study suggested that smokers may have a lesser chance of catching coronavirus.
The surprising findings come despite health officials around the world repeatedly warning that smokers who contract the lung-attacking COVID-19 have a greater risk of severe cases.
A study conducted by French researchers at the Pasteur Institute studied close to 700 students, their families and teachers at a school in Crépy-en-Valois, The Telegraph reported.
The research found that smokers were four times less likely to catch COVID-19, with only 7.2 per cent of smokers contracting coronavirus while 28 per cent of nonsmokers were infected.
The findings from the Pasteur Institute tie in with research from a Paris hospital, which found a low rate of smokers were admitted with the virus.
In a survey of 350 coronavirus cases hospitalised at the Salpêtrière Hospital, only 4.4 per cent were regular smokers.
Researchers have argued that smoking could be a "protective factor" against coronavirus.
They claimed that as a "nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR)" is a factor in infection, nicotine may then protect this receptor from being attack.
However the researchers stressed that people should not be taking up smoking as a way to prevent coronavirus as it is also a "drug of abuse" that caused a range of other health issues.
"Smoking has severe pathological consequences and remains a serious danger for health. Yet under controlled settings, nicotinic agents could provide an efficient treatment for an acute infection such as COVID-19," they wrote.
The trial of nicotine patches on patients and health workers is now waiting approval from France's health bodies, with the country's health minister Olivier Véran labelling the findings so far "interesting".
DOCTORS WARN SMOKERS TO STOP NOW
The French findings come despite health professionals warning that those with a history of smoking have a greater chance of an adverse coronavirus case.
In a study of 1099 coronavirus patients, 21.7 per cent of with a history of smoking had severe cases resulting in them being admitted to hospital.
"You are about twice as likely to have severe COVID disease if you are a current or past smoker compared to someone who has never smoked," head of respiratory medicine at Sydney's Concord Hospital, Matthew Peters, told the ABC.
"Smoking is bad for your lungs and this is a particularly good time to not be a smoker and not have that damage going on."
Smoking leads to lung damage, heart disease and cancer - all health issues that make COVID-19 cases more severe, an article in the peer-reviewed British Medical Journal warned.
The fingers-to-face movements of smoking could also increase your chances of contracting coronavirus, with the disease spread through particles on your hands or objects.
"There has never been a better time to quit smoking to protect yourself from COVID-19," respirologist at St Paul's Hospital in Vancouver Janice Leung wrote, in another study published in the European Respiratory Journal.
Originally published as Nicotine patches 'may prevent virus'