Coronavirus: Cigarette smoke increases cell vulnerability to Covid-19, US experts say

Researchers from UCLA explain how ‘smoking reduces the natural defences’ of the airways.

Exposure to cigarette smoke makes airway cells more vulnerable to infection with the new coronavirus, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) researchers found.

They obtained airway-lining cells from five individuals without and exposed some of the cells to cigarette smoke in test tubes. Then they exposed all the cells to the coronavirus.

Compared to cells not exposed to the smoke, smoke-exposed cells were two or even three-times more likely to become infected with the virus, the researchers reported in Cell Stem Cell.

Analysis of individual airway cells showed the cigarette smoke reduced the immune response to the virus.

“If you think of the airways like the high walls that protect a castle, smoking cigarettes is like creating holes in these walls,” co-author Brigitte Gomperts told Reuters. “Smoking reduces the natural defences and this allows the virus to enter and take over the cells.”

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