There is an increased risk in patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) who smoke and vape, according to a new study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

COVID-19 has infected more than 14 million people and has caused more than 600,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. Severe respiratory and pulmonary disorders associated with the virus are well documented. According to a press release, recent research has found cardiovascular-neurological dysfunction in COVID-19 patients, which includes large artery ischemic strokes originating in one of the brain’s larger blood-supplying arteries, such as the carotid artery.

Researchers from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) found that smokers or users of tobacco and vaping products are more vulnerable to bacterial and viral infections than non-smokers. COVID-19 attacks the respiratory and vascular systems, which can worsen outcomes for patients who smoke or vape. 

According to the press release, the human body has 13 blood coagulation factors that can increase due to hypoxia. This is when the body is deprived of sufficient oxygen at the tissue level, which occurs with smoking. Researchers found that COVID-19 seems to raise some blood procoagulant, most notably the von Willebrand factor.

There is an increasing amount of evidence that COVID-19 effects the neurological system, according to the press release. Researchers point to a study of 214 COVID-19 patients in which 36.45% had neuroglial symptoms to further prove that the virus is able to affect the neurological system. Since COVID-19 and smoking or vaping both increase blood coagulation factors that may eventually affect the cerebral vascular system, there may be a higher risk of stroke for COVID-19 patients who smoke, according to the researchers.    

"When the coagulant factor will be increased in our body, there will be a higher chance of clot formation…Ultimately, it will be responsible for several vascular dysfunctions, for example, hemorrhagic or ischemic stroke,” Sabrina Rahman Archie, TTUHSC graduate research assistant, said in the press release.

More research is needed on how COVID-19 affects people who smoke, according to the press release. The study authors said the virus is too new to know for certain and hope to conduct more research later this year. 

Reference:
Study suggests increased risks for COVID-19 patients who smoke, vape (News release), Lubbock, TX, July 22, 2020, EurekAlert!, Accessed July 22, 2020