According to a pan-India serosurvey conducted by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in its nearly 40 institutes revealed that smokers and vegetarians were found to have lower sero positivity which indicates that they may be at a lower risk of getting infected by the deadly coronavirus.
As well as the ones with blood group ‘O’ may be less susceptible to the infection, the survey found, while the ones with ‘B’ and ‘AB’ blood groups were at a higher risk for contracting the disease.
For its study, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) took samples of 10,427 adult individuals working in its laboratories or institutions and their family members to assess the presence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, based on their deliberate participation.
However, the study which was piloted by CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), Delhi said of the 10,427 individuals, 1,058 (10.14 per cent) had antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.
Shantanu Sengupta, senior scientist at IGIB and one of the co-authors of the paper said, a follow up on 346 sero positive individuals among the samples after three months revealed ‘stable’ to ‘higher’ antibody levels against SARS-CoV-2, but decreasing plasma activity for neutralizing the virus.
At six months, a repeat sampling of 35 individual revealed declining antibody levels while the neutralising antibody remained under control as compared to three months.
However, both the normal antibody as well as the neutralising antibodies were much above the required threshold, he said.
The study said, “Our finding that smokers are less likely to be seropositive is the first report from the general population and part of growing evidence that despite COVID-19 being a respiratory disease, smoking may be protective.”
The ministry had said experts have confirmed in its ‘COVID-19 Pandemic and Tobacco Use in India’, that smokers were more likely to develop severe symptoms or die from COVID-19 as this disease affects the lungs at the primarily as well as also warned for the use of such products.
Smokers were more vulnerable to COVID-19 cautioned the ministry, as smoking is a act where the fingers are in contact with lips which increases the risk of transmission of virus from hand to mouth easily.
Anurag Agrawal, IGIB director, and one of the co-authors of the paper said, “The presence of such antibodies is a reliable marker of infection and recovery. However, some infected people may not develop antibodies.”
“Use of private transport, lower-exposure occupations, smoking, vegetarianism and ‘A’ or ‘O’ blood groups appeared to be protective, using seropositivity as a surrogate for infection,” the paper added.
For about three months (35 individuals) to six months (346 individuals) were monitored for antibodies including those with probable neutralising activity and this was for the first time that a study has been conducted in India wherein this number of people were included , said Sengupta. This is the first such cohort survey, he added.
“We conducted both the normal antibody test and neutralising anti-body test to understand the prevalence and duration of antibodies,” he said.
Some 40 institutes covering the length and the breadth of the country and each specialises in different fields that CSIR covers.
However, at the front position in conducting the genome sequencing of coronavirus there were mainly two institutes which has been a part were, the IGIB and its sister institute Centre of Cellular and Molecular Biology.