Vaping ‘may increase risk of catching Covid’ as users given grim warning in new

A new study has found that chemicals in e-cigarettes enhance the chance of you catching Covid while a scientist has advised vapers to stop for “the protection of their health”

Vaping increases the chances of catching Covid, a study has found(AFP/Getty Images)

Vapers have been warned of the risks as chemicals in e-cigarettes enhance the chances of catching Covid, a new study found.

University of California scientists have shown that two chemicals, propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin, enhanced Covid infection through different mechanisms. And they found that adding benzoic acid, a chemical compound, to e-liquids prevents the infection caused by the chemicals.

Study first author Dr Rattapol Phandthong said: “Users who vape aerosols produced from propylene glycol/vegetable glycerin alone or e-liquids with a neutral to basic pH are more likely to be infected by the virus. Users who vape aerosols made from e-liquids with benzoic acid, an acidic pH, will have the same viral susceptibility as individuals who do not vape.”

The researchers obtained airway stem cells from human donors to produce a 3D tissue model of the human bronchial epithelium, airway system. The tissues were exposed to JUUL and BLU e-cigarettes to study the effect on Covid infection. They found an increase in the amount of ACE2, a host cell receptor for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, in all tissues.

An enzyme that is essential for the virus to infect cells, TMPRSS2, was found to show increased activity in tissues exposed to aerosols with nicotine. Prof Prue Talbot said: “It would probably be best for vapers to quit vaping for the protection of their health and to stop nicotine dependency.

“If they cannot stop vaping, it is better to vape aerosols produced from an e-liquid with acidic pH or with benzoic acid to prevent the enhanced SARS-CoV-2 infection caused by nicotine, propylene glycol, and vegetable glycerin. However, inhalation of benzoic acid has its own risk, and data is still limited on this topic.”

Dr Phandthong said: “The complexity is attributed to a wide range of available e-liquids, the chemical composition of each e-liquid, and different models of e-cigarettes. Our study only used Classic Tobacco Flavor JUUL e-cigarette and BLU Classic Tobacco e-cigarette. Even with just these two e-cigarettes, we found the aerosols and individual ingredients produced different effects on SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

The team only investigated the initial stage of SARS-CoV-2 infection, in the study published in the American Journal of Physiology, and suggest that there are many later stages involved in infection, such as viral replication. There is the likelihood that these additional stages can also be affected by inhalation of e-cigarette aerosols. The team hopes the Food and Drug Administration will use their findings to implement regulatory laws on e-cigarette products. Dr Phandthong added: “Our findings could also help improve the design of clinical trials involving the use of tobacco products and SARS-CoV-2 infection.

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