Researchers Show Vaping May Worsen Coronavirus Infections

Posted May 03, 2021, 2:53PM

Research by investigators from North Carolina Central University suggests that vaping contributes to increased severity of coronavirus-dependent pulmonary disease, with implications for COVID-19 infected patients.

Researchers recently published their findings in the journal “Frontiers in Physiology,” determining that use of vaped electronic cigarettes, known as e-cigarettes, may contribute to pulmonary disease severity. The research was conducted using mice infected with coronavirus.

“This is an early and preliminary study using a mouse model, but in our study, vaping did increase lung inflammation when the mice were later challenged with murine coronavirus,” said Rob Onyenwoke, Ph.D., one of two principal investigators on the project. “However, the really exciting part for me was that we could mitigate this effect with a drug with defined properties."

Onyenwoke and Vijay Sivaraman, Ph.D., used a coronavirus (MHV-A59) to infect the animals nasally, eliciting the hallmarks of pneumonia. In mice that were previously exposed to e-cigarette liquids, the lung inflammation was far worse, leading in many times to severe lung disease and death.

Importantly, the researchers also showed that vaping dysregulates normal calcium signaling within the lung, thus contributing to disease severity.  With existing drugs capable of targeting this dysregulation, the findings suggest the possible development of an intervention for humans experiencing coronavirus-related lung diseases, such as COVID-19, the researchers said. 

Both Sivaraman, who studies the immunology of lung inflammation in the College of Health and Sciences, and Onyenwoke, who studies the pulmonary consequences of vaping within the context of cell biology in the Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise (BRITE) and Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, plan to further the investigate current therapeutics that may improve health outcomes for those who vape e-cigarettes, as well as may be afflicted with pulmonary coronavirus in general.

“Vaping is still a relatively new phenomenon, with new products emerging every month,” Onyenwoke said. “At the same time, we don't really understand all of the risk factors that may contribute to COVID-19 disease severity. We need to further investigate, for example, if vaping is one of those risk factors.”

Their paper, entitled “Vaping Exacerbates Coronavirus-related Pulmonary Infection in a Murine Model,” was included in the magazine’s special issue focused on E-cigarettes and COVID-19.

Citation: Vijay Sivaraman, De’Jana Parker, Rui Zhang, Myles M. Jones, Rob U. Onyenwoke. 2021.

Vaping Exacerbates Coronavirus-related Pulmonary Infection in a Murine Model. Frontiers in Physiology. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2021.634839


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