Researchers find asthma does not increase the severity of coronavirus

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NEW YORK: Asthma does not appear to increase the risk for a person contracting COVID-19 or influence its severity, according to a team of Rutgers researchers.

The recent research was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Reynold A. Panettieri Jr

According to Reynold A. Panettieri Jr., a pulmonary critical care physician and director of the Rutgers Institute for Translational Medicine and Science and co-author of the paper, “Older age and conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and obesity are reported risk factors for the development and progression of COVID-19. However, people with asthma — even those with diminished lung function who are being treated to manage asthmatic inflammation — seem to be no worse affected by SARS-CoV-2 than a non-asthmatic person. There is limited data as to why this is the case — if it is physiological or a result of the treatment to manage the inflammation.”

Panettieri discusses what we know about asthma and inflammation and the important questions that still need to be answered.

How might awareness of SARS-CoV-2 affect the health of people with asthma?

Since the news has focused our attention on the effects of COVID-19 on people in vulnerable populations, those with asthma may become hyper-vigilant about personal hygiene and social distancing. Social distancing could improve asthma control since people who are self-quarantined are also not as exposed to seasonal triggers that include allergens or respiratory viruses. There is also evidence that people are being more attentive to taking their asthma medication during the pandemic, which can contribute to overall health.

Children and young adults with asthma suffer mainly from allergic inflammation, while older adults who experience the same type of airway inflammation can also suffer from eosinophilic asthma — a more severe form. In these cases, people experience abnormally high levels of a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infection, which can cause inflammation in the airways, sinuses, nasal passages and lower respiratory tract, potentially making them more at risk for a serious case of COVID-19.

In addition, an enzyme attached to the cell membranes in the lungs, arteries, heart, kidney and intestines that have been shown to be an entry point for SARS-CoV-2 into cells is increased in response to the virus. This enzyme is also thought to be beneficial in clearing other respiratory viruses, especially in children. How this enzyme affects the ability of SARS-CoV-2 to infect people with asthma is still unclear. (ANI)