Could BOTOX protect people from getting Covid?
It’s designed to stop wrinkles in middle-age – but Botox could also protect people from catching Covid, according to a French study.
Researchers said that out of their almost 200 patients who got the treatment up to July last year, only two had signs of being ill.
For comparison, they suggested 4.4 per cent of the French population had already been infected with the virus.
But experts described the study as being ‘extremely poor’ and insisted that it proved nothing about whether Botox had any promise in the fight against Covid.
More than one million Britons get Botox injections every year, and the procedure is even more common in the US.
French scientists have suggested botox can stop a Covid infection. But experts in England have said their study was ‘extremely poor’. Stock photo
The toxin, one of the most dangerous known to science, helps to reduce wrinkles because it relaxes muscles in the forehead.
But it is also used for medical reasons, and given to patients suffering migraines and involuntary muscle contractions to help soothe symptoms.
Some 193 patients were involved in the study, of which three quarters were women (146). They were in their fifties, on average.
They had all received Botox for medical ailments, the Montpellier University Hospital team revealed.
How could botox fight off SARS-CoV-2?
Some researchers have claimed that botox may be able to stop a Covid infection.
But there is still no concrete evidence that the treatment can stop a viral infection.
French scientists said when Botox is administered it binds to a chemical — acetylcholine — which allows muscles to contract.
They claim this could also stop Covid cases because the virus is thought to use the receptors this chemical binds to to invade cells.
They pointed to other scientific papers that suggest nicotine blocks this receptor to back up their theory.
Previous research had suggested smokers were less likely to suffer severe Covid if they were infected.
The French researchers admit that more work is needed to establish how Botox may be able to stop an infection with the virus.
All volunteers were followed for three months after they received the injections to see whether or not they caught the virus.
None of the participants ever tested positive for Covid, although there were two suspected cases.
A 53-year-old woman developed tell-tale symptoms after returning from a trip to Las Vegas, but she tested negative. A 70-year-old woman also fell ill but she was never tested.
Neither patient was hospitalised, experts wrote in the Journal of Stomatology, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.
The team said: ‘Our results show a significant difference between the number of infected individuals in the general population and the number of patients injected with Botox who showed signs of Covid.’
They admitted that the region where the patients were picked from was ‘not one of the worst-affected’ areas in France, ‘quite the opposite’.
To suggest Botox may be thwarting Covid, the team pointed to a 64-year-old woman from Lozere in southern France who got the treatment. They claimed she did not catch the virus despite it infecting everyone else in her village.
They also pointed to a 46-year-old woman who did not get Covid after her daughter tested positive for the virus. They do not say how old the daughter was or whether they lived together.
Botulinum toxin works by stopping the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, paralysing muscles.
Dr Dominique Batifol, lead author of the study, and other contributors to the paper suggested this could stop a Covid infection.
They pointed to other papers which have suggested nicotine blocks the receptor that acetylcholine binds to, to back up their theory.
Previous research had suggested smokers were less likely to suffer severe Covid if they were infected, but the evidence on the matter has been mixed since.
The team admitted more research was needed to determine how Botox may stop a Covid infection.
Professor Willem van Schaik, director of the institute of microbiology and infection at the University of Birmingham, criticised the study.
He told MailOnline: ‘This paper cannot be used as evidence, not even as weak evidence, that Botox can protect against Covid.
‘The gold standard to determine whether a treatment is effective in treating or preventing Covid is to perform a randomised clinical trial in which you compare the treatment with a placebo. This paper describes no such thing.’
Professor van Schaik added: ‘The rest of the paper does not give much in terms of a mechanistic explanation of Botox on infection by SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid) and is highly speculative.’
He said on Twitter: ‘Extremely poor papers on Covid continue being published in peer-reviewed journals.’
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