Smoking, vaping and second-hand smoke may all increase your risk of coronavirus, studies have claimed.
The most recent study, led by scientists from Australia’s University of Technology Sydney, indicates that smoking may increase the genetic contribution to Covid-19 infections.
The new coronavirus enters the body by hijacking proteins on the surface of healthy cells, in particular a protein called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2).
In adult lungs, just three cigarettes can increase the activity of genes with the information for building ACE2, according to an international research team led by Dr Alen Faiz.
Dr Faiz told Reuters that ACE2 levels were lower in people who had stopped smoking for more than a month.
“Our preliminary data suggest that second-hand smoke exposure of 1-year-old children … increased ACE2 expression in their airways,” he said.
His team also found higher levels of the ACE2 genes in the nose compared to the lung airways, indicating the nose may be more easily infected.
But while it is known that the coronavirus uses ACE2 to break into cells, there is as yet no proven link between higher expression of the genes and the severity of COVID-19 infection, Dr Faiz said.
The study report, posted as a preprint on medRxiv, has yet to be certified by peer review.
The findings come shortly after a study warned that teens who vape are five times more likely to catch coronavirus.
Lead author Dr Shivani Mathur Gaiha said: “They may believe their age protects them or they will not experience symptoms but the data show this isn’t true among those who vape.
“This study tells us pretty clearly youths using vapes or are using e-cigarettes and cigarettes are at elevated risk. And it’s not just a small increase – it’s a big one.”