BARCELONA – Pollution increases the risk of developing severe symptoms in the case of Covid, as well as ending up hospitalized or in intensive care. Contrary to what has been reported in previous studies, smog does not promote infection, but makes a severe course of the disease more likely.
This is what emerges from a study conducted at the Barcelona Institute of Global Health (ISGlobal) and published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Several studies have shown a link between air pollution and Covid, but none so far the way in which smog favors the disease, whether by increasing the infections or by increasing the symptoms and the severity of them.
The experts considered 9,605 adults, most of the participants were between 40 and 65 years old. Of these, 481 were positive for Covid. For 4,000 of the participants, the experts performed blood tests in search of specific antibodies against the virus. It was found that higher exposure to nitric oxide and fine particles (PM2.5 fine particles) corresponded to higher concentrations of antibodies (an indicator of high viral load and stronger symptoms of infection).
In all cases, an association was found between high levels of pollutants and disease (presence of symptoms), particularly for the most severe cases that end up in hospital and intensive care. The association with fine particulate matter and disease was particularly strong for males over-60 and for those living in socio-economically disadvantaged areas. Furthermore, in severe cases, a higher concentration of obese people was found.
“Our study provides the strongest evidence on a global level of the association between air pollution and Covid19”, explains the author of the work Manolis Kogevinas. “These results are in line with the association between air pollution and hospitalization described for other infectious diseases such as influenza or pneumonia.”
In discussing the study, the researchers write: ‘Long-term exposure to air pollution has been linked to incident diabetes, as well as cardiovascular, chronic respiratory and neuro-degenerative diseases. Due to the limitations of the sample size analyzed, we were unable to quantify the mediating role of these conditions in the COVID-19 air pollution-disease relationship. This should be a priority in future studies with larger sample sizes. ‘