In the long term, pollution could play a role in the mortality linked to the coronavirus. An international study shows this Tuesday that breathing polluted air increases the risk of dying from Covid-19 on average worldwide by 15%.
The study published in the specialized journal Cardiovascular Research is working to assess in what proportion this pollution, already the cause of premature deaths, could also influence the mortality linked to Covid-19. This proportion would be around 19% in Europe, 17% in North America, around 27% in East Asia, according to estimates by Professor Jos Lelievel of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz (Germany). ) and his colleagues.
A receptor stimulated by pollution?
But the authors do not establish a direct cause and effect relationship between this pollution and Covid mortality. They used previous American and Chinese epidemiological data on air pollution and Covid-19 and on SARS of 2003, a disease similar to Covid. They combined them with satellite data on global exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and data from ground pollution monitoring networks to make their calculations.
The pollutant particles appear to increase the activity of a receptor, called ACE-2, located on the surface of cells, involved in how Covid-19 infects patients, according to the researchers. “We therefore have a ‘double blow’: air pollution damages the lungs and increases the activity of ACE-2, which leads to better absorption of the virus”, according to Professor Thomas Munzel (Johannes University Gutenberg, Mainz), co-signer of the study.
“The transition to a green economy with clean and renewable energy sources will promote both the environment and public health, at the local level by improving air quality and at the global level by limiting climate change”, they plead. Deeming “extremely probable” the existence of a link between air pollution and mortality due to Covid-19, Anna Hansell, professor of environmental epidemiology (University of Leicester) considers for her part “premature to try to quantify it precisely ”.
She mentions “many other good reasons to act now” to reduce air pollution, which the WHO already associates with 7 million deaths per year worldwide (4.2 million of these deaths linked to pollution outdoor air and the rest to indoor air pollution).