Vaping can increase risk of COVID-19

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In a revealing study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Riverside, it’s been discovered that vaping, the act of inhaling vapor produced by electronic cigarettes, could make individuals more prone to catching COVID-19.

This study shines a light on how the ingredients found in the liquid used for vaping, known as e-liquid, play a role in this increased susceptibility.

E-liquids typically contain a mix of nicotine, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, and various flavoring chemicals.

Through their research, the team at UC Riverside uncovered that propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin, whether used alone or combined with nicotine, can enhance the risk of COVID-19 infection in distinct ways.

These findings were published in the American Journal of Physiology.

Interestingly, the study also presents a silver lining. The researchers found that adding benzoic acid to e-liquids could counteract the infection risk posed by propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, and nicotine. Benzoic acid alters the pH level of the e-liquid, making it acidic.

According to Rattapol Phandthong, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral researcher, vaping products that contain benzoic acid might pose the same risk of virus susceptibility as those who do not vape at all.

To arrive at these conclusions, the researchers developed a 3D tissue model mimicking the human bronchial epithelium by using airway stem cells from human donors.

They then exposed this model to aerosols from popular e-cigarette brands, JUUL and BLU, to observe the effects on SARS-CoV-2 infection risk.

The study noted an increase in ACE2, a key receptor that the virus uses to enter cells, and TMPRSS2, an enzyme that aids the virus’s cell entry, especially in tissues exposed to nicotine-containing aerosols.

Prue Talbot, the study’s senior researcher and Phandthong’s advisor, emphasizes the need for caution among e-cigarette users, suggesting that quitting vaping could be beneficial for reducing the risk of COVID-19 infection.

However, for those unable to quit, choosing e-liquids with acidic pH or containing benzoic acid might be a safer alternative, despite the potential risks associated with inhaling benzoic acid itself, about which research is still ongoing.

The relationship between vaping and susceptibility to COVID-19 is complex, influenced by the wide variety of e-liquids, their chemical compositions, and the different e-cigarette models.

Even within the scope of the study, which focused on just two brands of e-cigarettes, the researchers observed varied effects on the risk of infection.

The study’s findings carry significant implications, not just for individual vapers, but also for regulatory bodies like the Food and Drug Administration, which could use this data to inform regulatory decisions.

Furthermore, these insights could aid in designing clinical trials exploring the link between tobacco product use and COVID-19 infection.

The research team hopes that their work will encourage current vapers to consider quitting and deter non-vapers from starting, especially given the evidence suggesting that vapers who contract COVID-19 may face more complications and a higher likelihood of developing long COVID-19.

While the study primarily focused on the initial stage of SARS-CoV-2 infection, it’s suggested that the later stages of infection could also be influenced by vaping, highlighting the need for further research in this area.

If you care about COVID, please read studies about Vitamin D deficiency linked to severe COVID-19, and how diets could help manage post-COVID syndrome.

For more information about COVID, please see recent studies about new evidence on rare blood clots after COVID-19 vaccination, and results showing zinc could help reduce COVID-19 infection risk.

The research findings can be found in the American Journal of Physiology-Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology.

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