Researchers in France have claimed that nicotine, a substance found in tobacco, could protect people from contracting coronavirus and further trials are being considered to see whether the substance can prevent or treat the deadly COVID-19 disease.
Researchers at the Pitie-Salpetriere hospital in the French capital Paris examined 343 coronavirus patients along with 139 others, who were infected by the virus, but showing mild symptoms. During their research, they found that the smoking rate in them was just 5 per cent as only a few of them smoked compared to around 35 per cent of France's overall population, news agency AFP reported.
'Nicotine blocks virus from entering cells'
World's top neurobiologist Jean-Pierre Changeux from France's Pasteur Institute, who also co-authored the study, said that nicotine could block the virus from entering cells and spreading in the body by adhering to cell receptors. The theory will need further trials and the researchers are now awaiting approval from French authorities.
If the French health department gives it go ahead, the researchers are planning to use nicotine patches on frontline healthcare workers in the Pitie-Salpetriere hospital in Paris to find out if nicotine can actually protect people from contracting the coronavirus. They are also planning to use the nicotine patches on patients to see if it reduces their symptoms.
Last month, similar research was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. According to that, only 12.6 per cent of 1,000 people infected in China were smokers. Whereas, the number of regular smokers in China is much more - 26 per cent, according to the WHO.
Health officials warn against the use of nicotine by non-smokers
However, French health officials have cautioned against the use of nicotine substitutes citing its side effects. "We must not forget the harmful effects of nicotine... Those who do not smoke should absolutely not use nicotine substitutes," the agency quoted Jerome Salomon, France's top health official.
France is among the worst-hit countries where Coronavirus has killed more than 21,000 people and infected over 1.5 lakh. The deadly virus that causes COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 has globally infected more than 2.7 million people and killed 1.9 lakh. In India, there are more than 21,000 confirmed cases and closes to 700 deaths.
Disclaimer: We are in no way promoting smoking or the use of tobacco as a nicotine substitute in any other form. Nicotine has several side effects and it can prove deadly.