A french study finds that nicotine protects from COVID-19 disease
Does Nicotine Protect Against Covid? This is the very serious hypothesis of a Pitié-Salpêtrière team and a world renowned neurobiologist. It should soon be the subject of a clinical study: nicotinic patches will be administered to patients and caregivers to measure the effects.
Nicotine, a preventive and curative remedy against Covid, is therefore the hypothesis defended by an internal medicine team from the Pitié Salpétrière hospital, and a world-renowned neurobiologist, member of the Academy of Sciences, Jean-Pierre Changeux.
It all started from a study that has just been carried out by the hospital, and which concludes that smokers are less affected than others by the virus. From this observation in the field was born a hypothesis which seems solid, and has just been published by the Academy of Sciences. It should be verified soon by a clinical study: it would not be tobacco, but nicotine which would have preventive properties.
The study carried out at La Pitié follows several rather disturbing observations on the ground. In recent weeks, several studies (but which included "biases", which made them unusable), seemed to show that there was a relatively low proportion of smokers among the sick. Prison populations or patients of psychiatric hospitals - populations that generally smoke a lot - seem to be little affected. All of this would suggest that smoking status is protection against the virus.
Few smokers in Covid patients
To have a clear heart, the study conducted by Pitié focused on 350 hospitalized patients and 130 lighter patients admitted on an outpatient basis, all tested positive for Covid. We looked to see whether these patients smoked more or less than the general population of the same sex or the same age, by comparing with general population data dating from 2018. Conclusion: very few smokers among these patients, explains the Professor of Internal Medicine Zahir Amoura, who conducted the study: "We found only 5% of smokers in these patients, which is very low. Basically, we have 80% less smokers in Covid patients than in the general population of same sex and same age".
So there would be something in tobacco that could protect against the Covid. And why not nicotine? For the record, the idea germinated from a happy coincidence. Through a mutual acquaintance, the Nobel Prize in Physics Serge Haroche, Professor Zahir Amoura met a month ago the world-renowned neurobiologist Jean-Pierre Changeux. Specialist of what are called nicotinic receptors, the scientist suggests that nicotine could prevent the virus from fixing itself, from penetrating into cells: it would thus prohibit its propagation and would constitute a brake to the development of the disease, which would finally explain this under-representation of smokers among patients tested positive. Some feedback from the field (but these are still only observations that deserve.
No way to rush on cigarettes
But the two scientists remain cautious: no question of rushing on cigarettes. Tobacco remains a scourge and nicotine an addictive substance, which makes the hypothesis quite disturbing. Difficult, indeed, to encourage the use of an addictive substance to protect from a disease. "It's all a question of benefit/risk balance" insist the two researchers, who suggest that nicotine may not be the only substance to play an active role on nicotinic receptors, and therefore to prevent the spread of the virus on a similar biological principle . Ivermectin, a well-known anti-parasite, could have these same properties, but this remains to be proven.
In any case, their nicotinic hypothesis deserves to be verified. Trials will therefore begin soon, especially as the health authorities seem interested. Both the Minister of Health Olivier Véran and the Director General of Health Jérôme Salomon have shown interest, say the researchers, for their demonstration. As soon as they have the green light, nicotinic patches will be administered to three different audiences, and at different dosages: to caregivers, as a preventive measure, to see if this protects them; to hospital patients, to see if symptoms improve; and to severe resuscitation patients, to see if their inflammatory condition improves.
That's because the other hypothesis is that nicotine could also reduce the excessive immune response that characterizes the most severe cases.