Smokers, vegetarians less vulnerable to Covid-19 infection: CSIR survey

New Delhi: A recent survey conducted by CSIR (Council of Scientific Industrial Research), Government of India, has revealed that smokers and vegetarians are less likely to contract Covid-19 infection. The survey suggested smoking may be protective, despite Covid-19 being a respiratory disease, due to its role in increasing the mucous production that may be acting as the first line of defence among the smoking population. It indicated that vegetarian food rich in fibre may have a role to play in providing immunity against COVID-19 due to its anti-inflammatory properties by modification of gut microbiota.

The pan India survey was conducted by an eminent team of 140 doctors and research scientists to study the presence of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, and their neutralization capability to infer possible risk factors for infection. The study assessed 10,427 adult individuals working in more than 40 CSIR laboratories and centres in urban and semi-urban settings spread across and their family members. These people voluntarily participated in the study.

It, however, cautioned that there was a need for focused mechanistic studies to understand the effect of smoking and nicotine on coronavirus infection. "Smoking is known to be severely detrimental to health and associated with multiple diseases and this observation should not be taken to be an endorsement, especially given that the association is not proved to be causal," the paper stressed.

It indicated that vegetarian food rich in fiber might have a role to play in providing immunity against COVID-19 due to its anti-inflammatory properties by modification of gut microbiota.

The survey also found that those with blood group 'O' may be less susceptible to infection, while 'B' and 'AB' were at a higher risk. Sero-positivity was highest for blood group type 'AB', followed by B, it said, adding that blood group 'O' was found to be associated with a lower positivity rate.

Earlier, two studies from France and similar reports from Italy, New York, and China reported lower Covid infection rates among smokers. A study by America's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which examined over 7,000 people who tested positive for COVID-19, also vindicated the above findings. Interestingly, the study found that only 1.3 per cent of survey participants were smokers, compared to the CDC report that 14 per cent of all Americans smoke.

Similarly, UCL (University College London) academics that looked at 28 papers across the UK, China, US, and France found the proportions of smokers among hospital patients were 'lower than expected.

The Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), known for its cutting-edge R&D knowledge base in diverse S&T areas, is a contemporary R&D organization. Having a pan-India presence, CSIR has a dynamic network of 40 national laboratories, 39 outreach centers, 3 Innovation Complexes, and 5 units. CSIR's R&D expertise and experience are embodied in about 4,600 active scientists supported by about 8,000 scientific and technical personnel.

CSIR is ranked at 84th among 4851 institutions worldwide and is the only Indian organization among the top 100 global institutions, according to the Scimago Institutions Ranking World Report 2014. CSIR holds the 17th rank in Asia and leads the country at the first position.

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