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While cigarette smoke is known to increase the risk of lung disease and Covid-19 infection, a new study on mice showed similar effects with exposure to e-cigarette vapour, particularly when nicotine is present in the vapour.

The study, by researchers, including one of Indian-origin from the Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, US, showed that mice exposed to e-cigarette vapour had inflammation of their lung tissue and reduced lung function, confirming the dangers of vaping.

The finding is relevant to humans as exposure to e-cigarette vapour increased levels of the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE-2) -- the receptor on the surface of cells that SARS-CoV-2 uses to invade.

Using the spike-like protein on its surface like a key, the novel coronavirus binds to the ACE2 receptor found in the lining of our airways and unlocks its path into our lung cells.

"Our findings provide a rationale for looking at the effect of vaping on ACE-2 levels in the lungs of humans," said Pawan Sharma, from the varsity's Center for Translational Medicine.

"If a similar induction of ACE-2 is seen, it provides further evidence for vaping being a risk factor for Covid-19 and can help us understand how to prevent and mitigate infection in this population," he added.

Covid Our findings provide a rationale for looking at the effect of vaping on ACE-2 levels in the lungs of humans. Photo by Unsplash

The study was published in the Journal of Investigative Medicine.

The researchers housed female or male mice in a box attached to an automated system that delivered precisely controlled amounts of e-cigarette vapour, with or without nicotine, for 30 min, twice a day for 21 days.

Compared to control mice that breathed room air, mice exposed to e-cigarette vapour had an increase in the levels of the ACE-2 receptor in the lungs, male and female.

Though this was not tested in the current study, higher levels of ACE-2 receptor could make it easier for the virus to enter the airways, increasing susceptibility to infection, the researchers said.

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Interestingly, the presence of nicotine in the vapour further enhanced the increase in ACE-2 specifically in male mice. Though further research is needed to understand the complexity of risk factors for Covid-19, this result sheds light on important physiological differences that make one sex potentially more vulnerable, they added. (IANS/AD)



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