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Scientists have found a link between human lung cells and exposure to organophosphate pesticides that potentially increases a person's susceptibility to COVID-19. This could have implications for veterans as many of them were exposed to these pesticides during wartime, Medical Xpress reported.

Symptoms of exposure to organophosphate pesticides could include fatigue, headaches, joint pain, indigestion, insomnia, dizziness, respiratory problems, and memory problems which are all observable in a person suffering from the Gulf War Illness.

Columbia VA Medical Center research health specialist Saurabh Chatterjee, Ph.D., from the University of South Carolina and the lead author of the study, said that the team identified the basic mechanism of pesticides exposure linked to increased COVID-19 susceptibility that also increases the risk for people with metabolic diseases, like cancer.

The findings will be presented by Ayan Mondal, Ph.D. at the annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology during the Experimental Biology 2021 meeting on April 27-30.

 Pesticides Exposure Increases Susceptibility to COVID-19, Study Finds
(Photo: Pixabay)
Pesticides Exposure Increases Susceptibility to COVID-19, Study Finds

Altered Immune Response Increases Risk of COVID-19

University of South Carolina's vice president for research Prakash Nagakatti, co-author of the study, said that it is unclear why COVID-19 causes a severe form of infection that needs hospitalization and high mortality rates.

The study sheds light on the role of pesticide exposure and the potential susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 through an altered immune response, according to Experimental Biology via SciTech Daily.

Researchers in the past have established that there is an increased amount of interleukin 6 (IL-6) levels in samples from veterans and a mouse model with Gulf War Illness. These are pro-inflammatory proteins that fight infections and respond to tissue damage.

However, continuous production of IL-6 could cause chronic inflammation and a decrease in the immune system's response to viruses.

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To test if this is also true to SARS-CoV-2, the team exposed human lung cells to IL-6 or chlorpyriphos or a combination of them. While another group of cells acts as the control group without exposure.

Then the team treated the spike proteins found in SARS-CoV-2 that attached to ACE-2 receptors, which started a process of the virus releasing its genetic material into a healthy cell.

They found that human lung cells exposed to the pesticide and IL-6 exhibited an increased cell death when spike proteins from SARS-CoV-2 were present.

Moreover, those cells in the experimental group had significantly more ACE2 expression on the apical cell surface compared to the cells in the control group. That means that more viruses will attach to the healthy cells.

Quality of Environment and COVID-19

Scientists are looking at how environmental quality contributes to the increased susceptibility to COVID-19. One suspect they are investigating is the endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs) that are prevalent in modern life, according to an article in The Conversation.

EDCs could potentially increase people's risk of developing chronic diseases that put people at greater risk for COVID-19 infection. The CDC and WHO recognizes that comorbidities, such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are risk factors for a severe form of infection and death.

RELATED ARTICLE: COVID-19 Risk Factor: Men, Older Adults, Smokers More Prone to Getting Infected Due to Their Biology

Check out more news and information on COVID-19 on Science Times.