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Air pollution likely to increase COVID severity, even for vaccinated: Report

File: The researchers said over the long term, pollution is linked to increase in cardiovascular and lung diseases which are in turn associated with more severe COVID-19 symptoms. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/MintPremium
File: The researchers said over the long term, pollution is linked to increase in cardiovascular and lung diseases which are in turn associated with more severe COVID-19 symptoms. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

  • Published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the study estimated air pollution exposure levels for each participant based on their residential addresses.

Even for the fully vaccinated, the exposure to air pollutants like particular fine particles (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), increased the risk of hospitalisation in COVID-19 patients by up to 30 per cent, said a study by University of Southern California (USC).

According to the study by a team of USC researchers, they analysed medical records from patients at Kaiser Permanente Southern California's (KPSC) Department of Research & Evaluation.

Around 50,010 patients, aged 12 and above were diagnosed with COVID-19 in July or August of 2021, when the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 was circulating and many people had been vaccinated, said the study.

ALSO READ: Covid update: India sees rise in infections; active cases further decline

"These findings are important because they show that, while COVID-19 vaccines are successful at reducing the risk of hospitalisation, people who are vaccinated and exposed to polluted air are still at increased risk for worse outcomes than vaccinated people not exposed to air pollution," senior research scientist at KPSC Anny Xiang said.

Published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the study estimated air pollution exposure levels for each participant based on their residential addresses.

The researchers looked at average PM2.5, NO2, and ozone (O3) levels during the one-month and one-year periods before each patient received a COVID-19 diagnosis.

"We investigated both long-term and short-term air pollution exposure, which may influence COVID-19 severity through different mechanisms," assistant professor at USC, and co-first author of the study Zhanghua Chen said.

The researchers said over the long term, pollution is linked to increase in cardiovascular and lung diseases which are in turn associated with more severe COVID-19 symptoms.

While in the short term, air pollution exposure may worsen inflammation in the lungs and could even alter the immune response to the virus.

In the findings, the teeam said that 30,912 people who were unvaccinated, high short-term PM2.5 exposure increased the risk of COVID-19 hospitalisations by 13 per cent, while long-term exposure increased the risk by 24 per cent.

According to the researchers, for NO2, short-term exposure raised hospitalisation risk by 14 per cent and long-term exposure raised the risk by 22 per cent, while Ozone was not significantly associated with COVID-19 hospitalisations.

For those who were partially or fully vaccinated, the hospitalisation risks related to air pollution exposure were slightly lower.

With PTI inputs.

 

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