- The internal medicine team at Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, in Paris, is in charge of this clinical study.
- Data indicates that the number of smokers who have caught the Coronavirus is lower than that of non-smokers. Patients and hospital staff will be given nicotine patches as part of this trial, and the results will be collated by French neurobiologist Jean-Pierre Changeux, who is a member of the French Academy of Sciences and leading scientist of this research study.
Something has caught the attention of French doctors at several Paris hospitals: the number of Coronavirus patients who are smokers is lower than the number of non-smokers who have caught the virus. It was initially believed that cigarette smokers had a higher risk of contracting this deadly viral disease, as Covid-19 mainly attacks the lungs, which is the organ most affected by smoking. But patient track records in Paris seem to show evidence to the contrary. So much so that an article was published on 21 April in the biology reports of the French Academy of Sciences, advocating this study based on the possibility that the nicotine receptor has a crucial role in the prevention and slow spreading of the Coronavirus.
This research study is supported by scientists at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (French acronym CNRS). This is the centre for scientific research applied to Inserm patients, i.e. those who are patients of the public hospitals in Paris, the University of the Sorbonne, and the Pasteur Institute. The suspicions of scientists regarding all of this are based on two different but complementary scientific premises, as can be found in the press release by the Science Academy, the University of the Sorbonne, and the hospitals.
The ratio of smokers who have contracted the Coronavirus is lower than that of non-smokers
Firstly, there's the fact that the number of smokers who have contracted the virus is rather low. This data was the basis for the research study by the organisations mentioned above, through which it was concluded that active smokers are protected from Covid-19. The reason for this is still unknown, but scientists believe that the key factor could be nicotine.
This theory already became known in China in late March. A study in The New England Journal of Medicine stated that out of 10,000 people infected in this Asian country, only 12.6% were smokers, whereas the total smoking population percentage amounts to 28%. This data seems to show that smokers are less prone to catching the virus than non-smokers.
Nicotine and COVID-19 share the same cell receptor
Secondly, scientists have found that both nicotine and the Coronavirus have the same receptor in the cells. In the case of smokers, the fact that this receptor is already occupied by nicotine could be the reason why Covid-19 has no room to enter the human body. This theory has been developed by the neurobiologist Jean-Pierre Changeux, honorary professor of the Collège de France and the Pasteur Institute, who is in charge of these ongoing clinical studies aimed at proving this theory. The first study, which includes 350 patients in hospitals in the French capital, already shows that the number of smokers is lower.
The next step is another clinical study involving 2,300 people; amongst them patients with mild symptoms, others in a more advanced stage of the illness, and also medical staff from several hospitals. The health department will provide them with nicotine and placebo patches so they can study how nicotine administration affects the virus. The neurobiologist Mr Changeux will be leading the internal medicine team who will carry out these trials.