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Viral infections

Smoking linked to progression of symptoms in COVID-19, study suggests

The study authors say their results could be used to further enhance the management of COVID-19 pneumonia.

Open access article

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has made this article free to access in order to help healthcare professionals stay informed about an issue of national importance.

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Older woman holding lit cigarette


The progression group had a significantly higher proportion of patients with a history of smoking compared to the group who had either improved or stabilised

Smoking, as well as older age, is associated with progression of COVID-19 symptoms, results from a small study published in the Chinese Medical Journal (28 February 2020) have suggested[1].

The study, based in Wuhan, China, aimed to investigate the factors affecting the progression of pneumonia in COVID-19 patients. To do this, the researchers recruited 78 patients who had been diagnosed with COVID-19-induced pneumonia.

On evaluating the patients at two weeks after admission to hospital, the researchers found that symptoms had progressed in 14% of the patients (n=11), while symptoms had either improved or stabilised in 86% (n=67) of patients.

Patients in the progression group were significantly older than those in the disease improvement/stabilisation group (median age 66 years vs. 37 years).

The progression group also had a significantly higher proportion of patients with a history of smoking compared with the other group (27.3% vs. 3.0%) which, the researchers said, suggested that smoking was associated with symptom progression in COVID-19.

The results also showed that the maximum body temperature at admission in the progression group was significantly higher than in the improvement/stabilisation group, highlighting that patients presenting with a high fever should be monitored more closely in order to avoid complications.

“These results can be used to further enhance the ability of management of COVID-19 pneumonia,” the researchers said.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20207890

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