Coronavirus: ACE2 receptor associated with smoking

… One Chinese study wondered whether Asian people are more susceptible genetically to Coronavirus and SARS:

We also noticed that the only Asian donor (male) has a much higher ACE2-expressing cell ratio than white and African American donors (2.50% vs. 0.47% of all cells). This might explain the observation that the new Coronavirus pandemic and previous SARS-Cov pandemic are concentrated in the Asian area.

The study has no statistical significance, given that the sample size included only a handful of people with a single Asian victim, and such a small sample size is meaningless.

But the reference to ACE2 may be on the right track. Specifically, most scientists agree that both the Wuhan Coronavirus and the SARS virus which hit China in 2002-2003 attack the human body through the ACE2 receptor (short for “Angiotensin-converting enzyme-2”, which is an enzyme which plays a role in constriction of the lungs).

Here’s where it gets interesting …

A professor at the University of South Carolina found that smokers have significantly higher levels of ACE2 than non-smokers … but that no difference was found based on age, gender or racial group:

In this study, we analyzed four large-scale datasets of normal lung tissue to investigate the disparities related to race, age, gender and smoking status in ACE2 gene expression. No significant disparities in ACE2 gene expression were found between racial groups (Asian vs Caucasian), age groups (>60 vs <60) or gender groups (male vs female). However, we observed significantly higher ACE2 gene expression in smoker samples compared to nonsmoker samples. This indicates the smokers may be more susceptible to 2019-nCov and thus smoking history should be considered in identifying susceptible population and standardizing treatment regimen.

Could this could help to explain why Chinese men are more susceptible to Coronavirus than other people?

Actually, it might…

The Chinese smoke a lot.  BBC reported in 2015:

China is the world’s biggest consumer of cigarettes – one in three cigarettes smoked globally is in China – as well as the world’s biggest tobacco producer.

More than 300 million people – about a quarter of the population – smoke, with the average smoker consuming 22 cigarettes a day.

And it turns out that Chinese men smoke a lot more than Chinese women.  For example, Gallup reported in 2005:

Smoking in China is overwhelmingly a male habit. At least two-thirds of all Chinese men (68%) smoke at least occasionally, and roughly half (49%) are regular smokers. In contrast, only 6% of women smoke regularly (3%) or occasionally (3%)….

Wikipedia writes:

China … accounted for 51.4% of the world’s male smokers in 2015.

BBC notes:

A new study has warned that a third of all men currently under the age of 20 in China will eventually die prematurely [from lung cancer and other diseases other than Coronavirus] if they do not give up smoking.

And a shockingly high percentage of Chinese male doctors smoke as well:…

Which would explain this finding:

Preliminary studies suggest Wuhan coronavirus is fatal mostly to east asians ethnicity due to ACE2 receptor

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