Lung cells exposed to e-cigarette liquid are at greater risk of being infected with COVID-19, study finds
- E-cigarette users are more likely to contract Covid, likely because of the nicotine in devices
- Researchers exposed lung cells to e-cigarette juice, and then to the virus to test results
- Devices have become common among teens and young adults in recent years
- There has been a recent surge in hospitalizations among teens who contract COVID-19
Use of e-cigarettes may be linked to higher rates of COVID-19 infection a new study suggests.
Researchers found that lung cells exposed to fluid from e-cigarettes appeared more vulnerable to the spike protein that the coronavirus uses to enter and infect cells.
The team, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says it is not sure why this is the case – but believes the nicotine in the fluid is causing the reaction.
Many previously believed e-cigarette users were safer than those who smoked cigarettes due to the lack of tobacco in their product.
A team of researchers found that people who have used e-cigarettes are more vulnerable to Covid-19. While they can not truly determine why, they believe it is because the nicotine in the juice the devices use
For the study, published in bioRxiv.org, the team took samples of cells that line the lungs.
Next, they exposed half of the cells to liquid from JUUL e-cigarettes before exposing all the cells to a harmless virus that had been coated with the spike protein from the coronavirus.
The researchers saw higher rates of infections in the lung cells that had been treated with e-liquid, compared to unexposed cells, according to a report posted on Sunday on bioRxiv ahead of peer review.
‘We hypothesize that nicotine may be responsible for the increased spike protein binding and subsequent pseudovirus infection,’ the authors wrote in the study.
‘However, the underlying mechanisms, and the purported link to nicotine will require additional study.’
E-cigarettes, and the brand JUUL which has become almost synonymous with the devices, have become widely used by teens and young adults.
JUUL first rose to prominence in 2015 as an easy, trendy and discrete way for people to smoke nicotine.
Their use among school-aged children can be attributed to their flavors, and the devices resemblance to a USB stick, allowing kids to easily carry them at school without getting caught.
Devices like JUULs are largely blamed for a recent increase in nicotine use by teens and young adults.
In 2020, nearly 40 percent of high schoolers who regularly smoke nicotine did so using an e-cigarette, according to a report by Tobacco Free Kids.
E-cigarette devices like JUULs have become popular among teens in recent years, causing a spike in teen nicotine use
The data comes as there has been a surge of teenagers have been admitted in the hospital with COVID-19.
Nearly a third of children aged 12 to 17 who were admitted to the hospital with Covid-19 symptoms needed intensive care, and five percent ended up on a respirator.
However, children make up just 0.1 percent of all COVID deaths.
‘I am deeply concerned by the numbers of hospitalized adolescents and saddened to see the number of adolescents who required treatment in intensive care units or mechanical ventilation,’ CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky, said in a statement.
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