Brussels: Smoking can make people more susceptible to serious complications from a coronavirus infection, the European Union (EU) agency for disease control has said, citing scientific studies, although available data is still limited.
In its updated assessment of the risks caused by coronavirus released on Wednesday, the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) included smokers among those potentially most vulnerable to COVID-19.
Patients above 70 years of age and people with underlying conditions such as hypertension, diabetes or cardiovascular disease are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19. Men are more vulnerable than women, the EU body said in its report.
Smokers have also appeared to be more susceptible to breathing complications caused by the disease, and the ECDC said it was advisable to identify them as a potential vulnerable group, confirming an earlier assessment, news agency Reuters reported.
The agency cited a study by Chinese doctors which on a sample of 99 patients affected by the coronavirus found that acute smokers were more at risk of dying than elderly people.
The ECDC report also said smoking was associated with heightened activity in the lungs of an enzyme, ACE2, that could make patients more vulnerable to COVID-19, citing a study conducted by Guoshuai Cai, from the University of South Carolina.
It added that former smokers appeared to be more at risk than current smokers because the enzyme was more active in different cells in former smokers.