A new study suggests that patients of asthma do not seem to be at increased risk of contracting COVID-19, or of more severe illness than someone who is not suffering from asthma. The study, conducted by researchers of Rutgers University in New Jersey, is published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
While older age and certain conditions — such as heart disease, high blood pressure, COPD, diabetes and obesity — are recognised as risk factors for development and progression of Covid-19, the study found that people with asthma (even those with diminished lung function) seem to be no worse affected by SARS-CoV-2 than a non-asthmatic person.
“There is limited data as to why this is the case — if it is physiological or a result of the treatment to manage the inflammation,” Reynold A Panettieri Jr, director of the Rutgers Institute for Translational Medicine and Science and co-author of a paper, said in a statement.
Among possible reasons, Panetteri proposed that because of increased attention on the effects of Covid-19 on people in vulnerable populations, those with asthma may become hyper-vigilant about personal hygiene and social distancing. “Social distancing could improve asthma control since people who are self-quarantined are also not as exposed to seasonal triggers that include allergens or respiratory viruses. There is also evidence that people are being more attentive to taking their asthma medication during the pandemic, which can contribute to overall health,” he said.
While a person’s vulnerability to severe illness caused by Covid-19 increases with age, asthma sufferers tend to be younger than those with reported high-risk conditions, Panetteri noted. As such, “age-adjusted studies could help us better understand if age is a factor in explaining why asthma patients may not be at greater risk for infection”.
Again, SARS-CoV-2 infects human cells by interacting with an enzyme (ACE2) attached to the cell membranes in the lungs, arteries, heart, kidney and intestines. This enzyme, which is increased in response to the virus, is also thought to be beneficial in clearing other respiratory viruses, Panetteri said.
Source: Rutgers University
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