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Why smokers and people with COPD are more likely to experience worse symptoms of COVID-19

A new study has helped explain why smokers and people with COPD are more likely to experience worse symptoms of COVID-19. The research has helped scientists understand more about the disease, as well as highlighting the importance of quitting smoking to help reduce the risk of severe symptoms.

What did the study look at?

Researchers took fluid from the lungs of 21 people with COPD and 21 people who did not have COPD. They also looked at whether the people in the study had smoked before or were current smokers.

The study tested the idea that people with COPD could experience more severe forms of COVID-19 due to higher levels of a specific substance found in the lungs. The substance, called ACE-2, has been shown in previous research to be how coronavirus is believed to get into cells to infect the lungs. Higher levels of this substance means a greater chance that the virus can take hold and infection the lungs.

What do the results show?

This study found that people with COPD and those who smoked had a higher level of ACE-2 in their lungs.

This helps scientists understand how the virus infects the lungs and could explain why this group of people are more likely to develop severe symptoms.

The study also found that people who had quit smoking had lower levels of ACE-2 than current smokers. This suggests that quitting smoking could help lower the risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms.

Why is this important?

The findings help scientists understand why some people are more likely to develop severe symptoms of COVID-19. It also adds evidence to support continued social distancing measures for people with COPD and smokers.

The study also highlights the importance of quitting smoking as it could help lower the risk of developing severe symptoms.

Read the original research paper

Title: ACE-2 Expression in the Small Airway Epithelia of Smokers and COPD Patients: Implications for COVID-19

https://doi.org/10.1183/13993003.00688-2020

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