Could Pollen Be Driving COVID-19 Infections?

They say pollen could be a culprit for respiratory infections, not because viruses cling to pollen grains and spread through our mouths, eyes, and noses, but because the pollen seems to disrupt our immune system. , even if a person is not allergic. to him.

“When we inhale pollen, they end up on our nasal mucosa and here they decrease the expression of genes which are important for the defense against airborne viruses”, study author Stefanie Gilles, PhD , chair of environmental medicine at the Technical University of Munich in Germany, said at a press conference.

In a study published last year, Gilles found that mice exposed to pollen produced less interferon and other protective chemical signals for the immune system. Those who were then infected with a respiratory virus had more virus in their bodies than mice not exposed to pollen. She seemed to see the same effect in human volunteers.

The study authors believe that pollen can cause the body to give up its defenses against the airborne virus that also causes COVID-19.

“If you are in a crowded room and other asymptomatic people are present and you have just been breathing pollen all day long, chances are you are more vulnerable to the virus,” says the author of l ‘study. Lewis Ziska, PhD, a plant physiologist who studies pollen, climate change, and health at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York City. “Having a mask is obviously very critical in this regard.”

Masks block pollen very well, so it’s even more important to wear one when pollen and viruses are floating around, he says.

However, other researchers say that while the study raises interesting questions, it cannot prove that pollen increases COVID-19 infections.

“Just because two things happen at the same time does not cause one to cause the other,” says Martijn Hoogeveen, PhD, professor of technical and environmental sciences at the Open University in the Netherlands.

Hoogeveen’s recent study, published in Total environmental science, found that the arrival of the pollen season in the Netherlands coincides with the end of the influenza season and that peaks of COVID-19 infection tend to follow a similar pattern – the exact opposite of the PNAS to study.

Another pre-printed study, which focused on the Chicago area, found the same thing: As pollen climbs, flu cases decrease. The researchers behind this study believe that pollen can actually compete with viruses in our airways, preventing them from infecting our cells.

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Jothi Venkat

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