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A childhood vaccine available since 1979 has been linked to less severe COVID-19 but smoking cigarettes raises risk

Tags: google new
DATE POSTED:November 21, 2020
smoking face mask coronavirus A woman wearing a protective face mask smokes a cigarette on June 07, 2020 in Madrid, Spain.
  • Researchers think that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, administered since 1979, could reduce the severity of COVID-19 in some patients.
  • Scientists have also found a link between exposure to cigarette smoke and susceptibility to coronavirus infection.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

People whose immune systems responded strongly to a measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine may be less likely to become severely ill if they are infected with the new coronavirus, new data suggest.

The MMR II vaccine, manufactured by Merck and licensed in 1979, works by triggering the immune system to produce antibodies. Researchers reported on Friday in mBio that among 50 COVID-19 patients under the age of 42 who had received the MMR II as children, the higher their titers — or levels — of so-called IgG antibodies produced by the vaccine and directed against the mumps virus in particular, the less severe their symptoms.

People with the highest mumps antibody titers had asymptomatic COVID-19. More research is needed to prove the vaccine prevents severe COVID-19. Still, the new findings "may explain why children have a much lower COVID-19 case rate than adults, as well as a much lower death rate," coauthor Jeffrey Gold, president of World Organization, in Watkinsville, Georgia, said in a statement.

"The majority of children get their first MMR vaccination around 12 to 15 months of age and a second one from 4 to 6 years of age."

However, exposure to cigarette smoke makes airway cells more vulnerable to infection with the new coronavirus, UCLA researchers found.

They obtained airway-lining cells from five individuals without COVID-19 and exposed some of the cells to cigarette smoke in test tubes. Then they exposed all the cells to the coronavirus. Compared to cells not exposed to the smoke, smoke-exposed cells were two- or even three times more likely to become infected with the virus, the researchers reported on Tuesday in Cell Stem Cell.

Analysis of individual airway cells showed the cigarette smoke reduced the immune response to the virus. "If you think of the airways like the high walls that protect a castle, smoking cigarettes is like creating holes in these walls," coauthor Brigitte Gomperts told Reuters.

"Smoking reduces the natural defenses and this allows the virus to enter and take over the cells." 

(Reporting by Nancy Lapid, Kate Kelland and Alistair Smout; Editing by Tiffany Wu)

Read the original article on Business Insider
Tags: google new