Childhood vaccine linked to COVID-19 less severe, cigarettes at risk

  • Researchers believe the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, administered since 1979, may 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.
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People whose immune systems have responded strongly to a measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine may be less likely to become seriously ill if they are infected with the new coronavirus, new data suggests.

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

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

“The majority of children receive their first MMR vaccine around the age of 12 to 15 months and a second from 4 to 6 years old.”

However, exposure to cigarette smoke makes cells in the airways more vulnerable to infection with the novel coronavirus, UCLA researchers have found.

They obtained lining cells from the airways of five people 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 smoke, cells exposed to smoke were two or even three times more likely to be infected with the virus, researchers in Cell Stem Cell reported on Tuesday.

Analysis of individual cells in the respiratory tract showed that cigarette smoke reduced the immune response to the virus. “If you think of the airways as the high walls that protect a castle, smoking cigarettes is like creating holes in those walls,” co-author Brigitte Gomperts told Reuters.

“Smoking reduces the natural defenses and this allows the virus to enter and take control of the cells.”

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

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