Air pollution linked to higher COVID-19 risk in these people

Credit: Edoardo Busti/Unsplash.

Scientists from Karolinska Institutet found that exposure to ambient air pollutants is linked to an elevated risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

The research is published in JAMA Network Open and was conducted by Olena Gruzieva et al.

Since pollutants in outdoor air can increase the risk of respiratory infections such as influenza and SARS, the COVID-19 pandemic aroused fears that they could also contribute to the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Studies have also shown that areas of poor air quality have more cases of COVID-19.

In the study, the team examined this more closely by checking the link between estimated exposure to air pollutants and positive PCR tests for SARS-CoV-2 in young adults in Stockholm.

The study draws on the population-based BAMSE project, which has regularly followed over 4,000 participants in Stockholm from birth.

The researchers identified 425 young adults who had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 (PCR test) between May 2020 and the end of March 2021.

They studied the associations between infection and exposure to air pollutants on the days before the positive PCR test, on the day of the test, and on later control days.

Each participant served in his or her own control on these different occasions.

They found that exposure to certain traffic-related air pollutants is associated with a greater likelihood of testing positive.

There was a strong association between infection risk and exposure to PM10 and PM2.5 two days before a positive test and exposure to black carbon one day before.

The results add to the growing body of evidence that air pollution has a part to play in COVID-19 and support the potential benefit of improving air quality.

The observed association was not influenced by gender, smoking, overweight, or asthma.

The researchers are now examining the link between air pollutants and post-COVID symptoms in young adults.

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