French Researchers Claim Nicotine Could Be a Coronavirus Drug

A new study in France revealed that nicotine can protect people from coronavirus infection. However, a further test is planned to test whether the substance can be used to prevent or treat coronavirus.

The findings came after researchers at Paris's famous hospital examined 343 coronavirus patients along with 139 people infected with a coronavirus with mild symptoms.

They found that a small number of them smoked, compared with a smoking rate of around 35 percent in the general population of France.

French Researchers Claim Nicotine Could Be a Coronavirus Drug
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"Of these patients, only five percent are smokers," Zahir Amoura, a study co-author and a professor of internal medicine, was quoted as saying by AFP.

The study echoes similar findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine last month which showed that 12.6 percent of the 1,000 people infected in China were smokers. This figure is far lower than the number of regular smokers in the general population of China, about 26 percent, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The theory is that nicotine can attach to cell receptors, thereby blocking the virus from entering cells and spreading in the body, according to renowned neurobiologist Jean-Pierre Changeux of the French Pasteur Institute who also co-authored the study.

Researchers are awaiting approval from health authorities in France to conduct further clinical trials.

They plan to use nicotine in health workers at the Pitie-Salpetriere hospital in Paris - where preliminary research is conducted - to see if it protects them from contracting the virus.

They have also applied to use patches in patients treated at the hospital to see if it helps reduce symptoms and also in more serious intensive care patients, Amoura said.

Researchers are investigating whether nicotine can help prevent "cytokine storms", a rapid overreaction of the immune system that scientists say can play a key role in fatal COVID-19 cases.

"We must not forget the harmful effects of nicotine," said Jerome Salomon, a French health official.

"Those who do not smoke at all should not use nicotine substitutes", which causes side effects and addiction, he warned.

Tobacco is the number one killer in France, with an estimated 75 thousand deaths per year related to smoking.

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