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We cannot talk about the correlation between smoking and COVID-19. Li Volti: “We only create confusion”

May 5, 2020

A recent study by Prof. Brake SJ studied the correlation between smoking and the angiotensin converting enzyme 2 and its implications to COVID-19. The author’s hypothesis suggests an increased risk of COVID-19 for smokers. But it is not so.

This is demonstrated with a new publication by researchers at CoEHAR.

According to the article “Smoking and SARS-COV-2 Disease: Dangerous Liaisons or Confusing Relationships?” by Prof. Giovanni Li Volti, CoEHAR Director (and in collaboration with Prof. Massimo Caruso and Prof. Riccardo Polosa) this hypothesis presents some problems.

To date, there are no data or experimental evidence suggesting a significant impact of smoking on the complex correlation mechanism between the ACE-2 enzyme and the SARS-COVID-2 virus.

Experimental data suggest that the COVID-19 infection generates a depletion of the ACE-2 activity, which is harmful since it would increase the uncontrollable activity of the enzyme in question.

It has been observed that the decrease of the presence of ACE-2 contributes to the development of lung injury and COPD. On the contrary, a greater expression of the enzyme could paradoxically protect against serious lung lesions caused by COVID-19.

According to recent studies, smoking, or rather, the nicotine present in smoke, could have a protective action, rather than harmful, in terms of the possibility of contracting coronavirus infection.

But conventional cigarette smoke, as we know, contains thousands of other carcinogenic substances due to the combustion process.

In this regard, according to Brake, electronic cigarettes, and the like, would seem no safer than conventional ones, since they cause comparable damage in those who contracted COVID-19.

“An extremely wrong association – said prof. Giovanni Li Volti, director of the CoEHAR of the University of Catania – because in the first place electronic cigarettes, as we know, are less harmful than conventional ones and, more importantly: there is no study that correlates the use of these devices with a greater risk of contracting severe forms of coronavirus “.

 “Brake’s study – explained Li Volti – is based on the assumption that COPD patients are more receptive to Covid 19. However, not all smokers are affected by COPD and this leads us to think that the statements following the publication of the colleague’s study are speculative. Today there are no data showing that smokers are more sensitive to coronavirus infection. In fact, epidemiological data from China tell us just the opposite, that smokers are largely the least affected by Covid-19 and the protective role of nicotine seems to be very relevant. “