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Treating cough, sneezing first could minimize Covid-19 severity: Researchers

February 20, 2023

Treating coughing and sneezing among Covid infected patients could hold a key to curtailing severity of the infection and spread to lungs, a new research finding has revealed.

A study which was conducted by researchers from IIT Madras, Jadavpur University and Northwestern University published in the journal- Frontiers in Physiology has revealed that the Covid-19 virus could travel further down to the respiratory system in the form of mucous droplets, which needs to be halted.

The research was a collaboration between Prof Mahesh Panchagnula, Dean (Alumni and Corporate Relations), IIT Madras, and Faculty, Department of Applied Mechanics, IIT Madras, Dr Aranyak Chakravarty, Assistant Professor, Department of Nuclear Studies and Application, Jadavpur University and Prof Neelesh A Patankar, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Northwestern University.

Researchers world-over have been studying the mechanism leading to spread of the COVID-19 virus from the nose and throat to the lungs. Among the proposed theories was that the virus could move through mucus in the respiratory system, but this would take too long or that it might enter though the bloodstream, both of which have been denied.

These researchers used mathematical models to show that viruses that infect the mucous lining of the respiratory tract spread as droplets into the lungs, thereby causing serious illnesses and recommend ways to prevent such spread.

Prof Mahesh Panchagnula, Department of Applied Mechanics, IIT Madras, said, “We examined the last theory through mathematical modelling of droplets moving from the nose and throat to the deep lungs. Our model showed that pneumonia and other lung distress can occur within 2.5 to 7 days after the first symptoms of a COVID-19 infection occur. This happens when the infected mucous droplets are transported from the nose and throat to the lungs.”

The transport of virus-laden mucous droplets can be reduced by preventing activities that result in the generation of these droplets in the first place. For example, sneezing or coughing can dislodge the infected mucous in the nose and throat in the form of droplets. Administering cough syrups or expectorants could help. This would not only curtail spread to others but will also prevent an additional source of self-aerosolized droplets which could be inhaled into the lower respiratory tract,” he said.

Dr Aranyak Chakravarty, Assistant Professor, School of Nuclear Studies and Application, Jadavpur University, said, “Our studies also show that while the transport of infected mucous droplets in the airway plays an important role, the infection growth and seriousness also depend upon the immune response of the infected person.”

Also read: Covid-19 safety precautions

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