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Scientists at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in New York found that smoke from cigarettes made the lungs produce more ACE2, or angiotensin-converting enzyme 2.
Researchers and doctors have observed large differences in how people respond to infections. Most only suffer from minor ailments, if any, while others require emergency room treatment. Men, the elderly, and smokers are considered more likely to develop severe illness, according to the researchers.
“We are starting to gather all the data we can find,” said CSHL Fellow Jason Sheltzer statement, explained that he and other researchers first focused on comparing gene activity in the lungs at various ages, between genders, and between smokers and nonsmokers.
“When we combined everything and began to analyze it, we saw that both rats that had been exposed to smoke in the laboratory and humans who were smokers now had significant ACE2 regulation,” he added.
Their findings, reported Saturday in the journal Cell Development, can explain why smokers seem to be very vulnerable to severe infections.
The analysis also shows that these changes can be reversed, showing that stopping smoking can reduce the risk of severe coronavirus infection.
On Tuesday night, coronavirus killed at least 91,661 and infected more than 1.5 million people in the US.
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