French researchers are conducting further tests on the possibility of Nicotine protecting people from coronavirus infections.
The researchers want to find out whether nicotine could help to prevent “cytokine storms”.
Cytokine storms is a rapid overreaction of the immune system scientists think could play a key role in fatal COVID-19 cases.
Neurobiologist Jean-Pierre Changeux from France’s Pasteur Institut said the theory of the researchers is that nicotine could adhere to cell receptors, blocking the coronavirus from entering cells and spreading in the body.
A top Paris hospital has already examined 343 patients with coronavirus as well as 139 infected people who had milder symptoms.
The researchers found in their study that a low number of them smoked, compared to smoking rates of around 35 percent in France’s general population.
“Among these patients, only five percent were smokers,” Zahir Amoura, the study’s co-author and a professor of internal medicine is quoted by the AFP as saying.
Further trials needed
Further clinical trials, according to the researchers will help provide clarity on the theory once approval from health authorities in France is granted.
During further trials researchers plan to use nicotine patches on health workers at the Pitie-Salpetriere hospital in Paris.
The hospital was the place the initial research was conducted to see if Nicotine protects them against contracting the virus.
Amoura said that the researchers will also conduct the trial on hospitalised patients to see if it helps reduce symptoms and also on more serious intensive care patients.
Experts say the decision to conduct further tests doesn’t mean people are being encouraged to pick up smoking or use nicotine as a protective measure against the virus.
“We must not forget the harmful effects of nicotine,” Jerome Salomon, France’s top health official is quoted by the AFP as saying.
He warned that “Those who do not smoke should absolutely not use nicotine substitutes”, which cause side effects and addiction.
Many scientists across the world are all racing to find a cure for the coronavirus but a vaccine is yet to be developed.
Human trials of some potential vaccines are however taking place in America and Europe.