People who live in places with high levels of nitrogen dioxide air pollutants are more likely to develop severe cases of covid-19 and be admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) or need mechanical ventilation. The finding is from a study conducted by German researchers.
“Our results show a positive association between long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide and the incidence and mortality rates of covid-19,” said the team responsible for the work, led by Susanne Koch, of Universitätsmedizin Berlin, University Hospital Berlin.
To conduct the study, the professionals compared data on air pollution from every municipality in Germany with information from patients who needed treatment in the ward or mechanical ventilation for a month in 2020. After the analysis, the scientists found that an average of 144 intensive care beds and 102 respirators were needed for patients with coronavirus in 10 cities with the highest long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide. As for the 10 cities with the lowest exposure, 28 intensive care beds and 19 respirators were needed, according to The Guardian.
The researchers admitted that the study did not prove a causal link between air pollution and severe Covid-19. However, they suggested a likely causal link that could explain the relationship between the disease and atmospheric nitrogen dioxide levels.
Covid-19 x Pollution
One of the keys to understanding the link between the severity of the infection and the pollution may be Ace-2, scientists believe. When it enters the cells, after infecting a person, the coronavirus binds to the Ace-2 receptor. This receptor is responsible, among other important functions, for helping the body regulate levels of angiotensin II, a protein that increases inflammation. In other words, it helps stop inflammation. However, when the pathogen binds to it, it no longer happens.
Air pollution is also known to cause a similar release of control over angiotensin II. Therefore, the combination of Covid-19 and prolonged exposure to polluted air would lead to more severe inflammation and, therefore, a greater need for intensive care and mechanical ventilation.
“Exposure to polluted air can contribute to a number of other conditions, including heart attack, stroke, asthma and lung cancer, and will continue to harm health long after the Covid-19 pandemic ends,” Koch said. “The transition to renewable energy, clean transport and sustainable agriculture is urgently needed to improve air quality. Reducing emissions will not only help limit the climate crisis, but will also improve the health and quality of life of people around the world. ”
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