By Paul Dowling
A Note from the Author: This report is not medical advice, but only poses a medical question. Please, do not use nicotine gum, or any nicotine product, without first consulting a doctor.
“In France, researchers at Paris’s Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital quizzed 480 patients with the [Wuhan] virus and established that only 5% were smokers – lower than the average 35% rate seen in the country. If approval to continue the research is given, they plan to ask health workers to wear nicotine patches. . . .” – Rupert Steiner, reporting for MartketWatch
A Text From My Dad
I awoke early to find a text from my dad, who had just been to the doctor for a check-up. My dad drives into Houston for his physicals, where he is able to receive world-class medical care, so learning about his medical consultations always proves interesting. This time was no different. Houston medical professionals are, as usual, on their toes when it comes to keeping abreast of what is going on in the medical world.
The text message went something like this: “Medical findings have shown that smokers have a much smaller incidence and a much faster recovery from the Wuhan Coronavirus than other patients. This has been traced to the likelihood that nicotine blocks the entrance of the Coronavirus into the cell by way of the normal receptors.” In other words, the cell receptor sites which normally allow the Wuhan Coronavirus entrée into human cells actually prefer good old-fashioned nicotine to the Coronavirus. So, as long as nicotine remains in competition with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (aka CoViD-19), nicotine wins and CoV-2 remains locked out.
Inhibiting Entry into the Cell Is Key
Nature.Com has reported that “CQ [Chloroquine] could inhibit SARS-CoV [the Chinese Bird Flu] entry [into the human cell] through changing the glycosylation of ACE2 receptor and spike protein. . . . HCQ [Hydroxychloroquine] effectively inhibited the entry step, as well as the post-entry stages of SARS-CoV-2 [aka CoViD-19], which was also found upon CQ treatment. . . .” While this report from Nature.Com is concerned with proving the efficacy of using Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine against the Wuhan Coronavirus, the importance of the ACE2 receptor site is also highlighted.
The Original Fear: Smokers May Prove More Susceptible to the Wuhan Coronavirus
The original concern about smokers, when the Wuhan Coronavirus first appeared on the scene, was that smokers may possess a significantly higher number of ACE2 receptors sites than non-smokers, which might make smokers particularly susceptible to the Wuhan Coronavirus. An article in Preprints.Org put it this way: “In current severe global emergency situation of 2019-nCov [2019 novel Coronavirus] outbreak, it is imperative to identify vulnerable and susceptible groups for effective protection and care. Recently, studies found that 2019-nCov and SARS-nCov share the same receptor, ACE2. . . . This indicates that smokers may be more susceptible to 2019-nCov. . . .”
The Actual Findings
Curiously, according to research that was conducted in France, “[u]pon further investigation, accounting for age and sex, the researchers found that the small number of smokers appeared to have had some kind of protection against the virus. The findings were in line with a study on Covid-19 in China, published at the end of March, in the New England Journal of Medicine, that found 12.6 percent of 1,099 people studied, who tested positive for Covid-19 were smokers, while the smoking rate in China is around 28 percent. . . . . In other words, nicotine could block the virus from entering the body through neurons in the olfactory system or through lung cells.”
Big Tobacco Is Doing Research to Develop a CoViD-19 Vaccine
So, it is perhaps fitting that Reynolds American, a tobacco company that is a subsidiary of BAT, is now hard at work developing a vaccine for the Wuhan Coronavirus. Healthcare reporter Sarah Owermohle has pointed out that “Reynolds American, the North Carolina cigarette giant behind the Camel, Newport and Pall Mall brands, is infecting fast-growing tobacco plants with a genetically modified coronavirus to see if they can produce antibodies for a possible vaccine.”
A turn towards the manufacture of lifesaving drugs might be a beautiful way for tobacco companies to become relevant again, and life-saving to boot. And, as teen tobacco use steadily falls – even with the upswing in demand that has come about due to the development of e-cigarettes – tobacco producers may well benefit from reinventing themselves into medical research companies, to promote good health.
Something for Americans to Ask Their Doctors About
My dad’s text message ended by explaining that his doctor “had two patients that tested positive for the Wuhan Coronavirus; one was 69 and the other was 75. The first was a daily smoker who developed a mild fever of 102 and was over the virus in two days, while the other was a former smoker who chewed nicotine gum and also ran a mild fever for a couple of days. As an aside, my doctor is now requesting that I keep nicotine gum on hand, to chew in the event I begin to run a fever.”
So, my dad is now keeping nicotine gum in his medicine chest, so, if he ever gets a fever, he might have something to chew in self-defense. After all, if nicotine blocks viral infiltration – by the Wuhan Coronavirus or any other virus – at the ACE2 receptor sites, why not keep nicotine gum on hand as an option? While this may not be the right thing to do in every instance, it is a question that might be worth exploring, in consultation with one’s doctor – especially for older adults who are at high risk for respiratory viral infections, such as the Wuhan Coronavirus.