It has long been known that smoking tobacco causes a wide variety of health problems, although there is not yet data on the long-term effects of vaping electronic cigarettes. A new study from UCLA suggests that using electronic cigarettes, as well as smoking tobacco, can greatly increase the risk of developing a serious case of COVID.
Study lead author Dr. Theodoros Kelesidis explained that smoking and vaping may result in a predisposition to increased inflammation. This, in turn, increases the potential severity of developing cardiovascular complications from COVID infection.
The discovery has strengthened the opinions of researchers opposing the prolonged use of e-cigarettes, which are considered by many to be harmless.
“E-cigarette vapers may be at higher risk than non-smokers of developing infections and inflammatory disorders of the lungs,” said Dr. Kelesidis. “Electronic cigarettes are not harmless and should be used for only the shortest time possible in smoking cessation, and not at all by nonsmokers.”
For the investigation, the researchers collected plasma from 30 vapers, 29 cigarette smokers, and 45 non-smokers. This dataset was unique in that it was collected before the pandemic, helping them gain insight into how participants’ bodies reacted upon catching COVID. The plasma was tested for furin, ACE2, Ang II, Ang1-7, and ADAM17, since-identified proteins required for SARS-COV-2 (COVID-19) to replicate.
ADAM17 was of particular interest. This is a protein created by COVID-19 that consists of the proteins IL-6R, sCD163, and L-selectin. The tests found that the plasma from young vapers and smokers had increased levels of L-selectin, furin, and sCD163 when compared to those who did not smoke or vape.
The results suggest that furin and ADAM17 are more prominent in the immune cells of vapers and smokers, as well as in surface cells such as those found in the lung lining.
Whilst the study was limited in size and limited to blood plasma instead of also using tissue samples, the researchers still found a clear correlation between smokers, vapers, and COVID severity.
“The key message is that smoking is the worst, but vaping is not innocent,” said Dr. Kelesidis. “This has been shown for many lung diseases but not for COVID. It was quite an interesting and novel finding that vaping changed the levels of key proteins that the virus uses to replicate.”
The research findings have been published in Journal of Molecular Medicine.
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