Researchers at the Pitie-Salpetriere hospital in Paris are investigating whether Covid-19 can be treated with nicotine, reports RFI.
The project is in response to an observation made by doctors in the first months of the pandemic that there were fewer smokers among their most serious Covid cases. The “smokers’ paradox” was observed in China and in peer-reviewed studies around the world. A French study found that out of 11,000 hospitalized patients, only 8.5 percent were smokers compared to 25.4 percent of the general population.
Some suggest the nicotine in cigarettes could be slowing the virus. Many Covid-19 deaths are caused by an overreaction of the immune system. Scientists speculate that nicotine helps moderate such overreactions because it lowers the immune system’s activity.
Last year, French researchers analyzed public health data of people who used nicotine substitutes, like patches or gum. They noticed that those people had fewer Covid cases than those who did not use nicotine substitutes.
To test the hypotheses, Paris hospitals launched three clinical studies using nicotine patches. One of the studies, concluded in April, involved 220 patients in intensive care units for severe Covid infections. Half were given nicotine patches and the others were given placebos. The data is being analyzed, and the first results should be out in June.
While the findings are interesting, Pitie-Salpetriere doctor Zahir Amoura warns people against taking up smoking to protect themselves from Covid. “Smoking is a scourge. It’s important to repeat that,” he told RFI.