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Evidence-Based Considerations Exploring Relations between SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic and Air Pollution: Involvement of PM2.5-Mediated Up-Regulation of the Viral Receptor ACE-2

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Laboratory of Clinical Biochemistry, University Hospital Sant’Andrea, Department of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Sensory Organs, Faculty of Medicine and Psychology, Sapienza University, via di Grottarossa 1035, 00189 Rome, Italy
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School of Engineering, University of Basilicata, viale dell’Ateneo Lucano 10, 85100 Potenza, Italy
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Laboratory of Clinical Biochemistry, University Hospital Sant’Andrea, via di Grottarossa 1035, 00189 Rome, Italy
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Structural Bioinformatics Group, Charité–Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Philippstr. 12, 10115 Berlin, Germany
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General Direction, University Hospital Sant’Andrea, via di Grottarossa 1035, 00189 Rome, Italy
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Department of Human Neuroscience, Sapienza University, Piazzale Aldo Moro, 5, 00185 Rome, Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(15), 5573; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17155573
Received: 6 July 2020 / Revised: 27 July 2020 / Accepted: 31 July 2020 / Published: 2 August 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Infectious Disease Epidemiology)
The COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 pandemic struck health, social and economic systems worldwide, and represents an open challenge for scientists —coping with the high inter-individual variability of COVID-19, and for policy makers —coping with the responsibility to understand environmental factors affecting its severity across different geographical areas. Air pollution has been warned of as a modifiable factor contributing to differential SARS-CoV-2 spread but the biological mechanisms underlying the phenomenon are still unknown. Air quality and COVID-19 epidemiological data from 110 Italian provinces were studied by correlation analysis, to evaluate the association between particulate matter (PM)2.5 concentrations and incidence, mortality rate and case fatality risk of COVID-19 in the period 20 February–31 March 2020. Bioinformatic analysis of the DNA sequence encoding the SARS-CoV-2 cell receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE-2) was performed to identify consensus motifs for transcription factors mediating cellular response to pollutant insult. Positive correlations between PM2.5 levels and the incidence (r = 0.67, p < 0.0001), the mortality rate (r = 0.65, p < 0.0001) and the case fatality rate (r = 0.7, p < 0.0001) of COVID-19 were found. The bioinformatic analysis of the ACE-2 gene identified nine putative consensus motifs for the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR). Our results confirm the supposed link between air pollution and the rate and outcome of SARS-CoV-2 infection and support the hypothesis that pollution-induced over-expression of ACE-2 on human airways may favor SARS-CoV-2 infectivity. View Full-Text
Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; PM2.5; angiotensin-converting enzyme 2; xenobiotic response element; aryl hydrocarbon receptor COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; PM2.5; angiotensin-converting enzyme 2; xenobiotic response element; aryl hydrocarbon receptor
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MDPI and ACS Style

Borro, M.; Di Girolamo, P.; Gentile, G.; De Luca, O.; Preissner, R.; Marcolongo, A.; Ferracuti, S.; Simmaco, M. Evidence-Based Considerations Exploring Relations between SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic and Air Pollution: Involvement of PM2.5-Mediated Up-Regulation of the Viral Receptor ACE-2. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17, 5573. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17155573

AMA Style

Borro M, Di Girolamo P, Gentile G, De Luca O, Preissner R, Marcolongo A, Ferracuti S, Simmaco M. Evidence-Based Considerations Exploring Relations between SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic and Air Pollution: Involvement of PM2.5-Mediated Up-Regulation of the Viral Receptor ACE-2. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2020; 17(15):5573. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17155573

Chicago/Turabian Style

Borro, Marina, Paolo Di Girolamo, Giovanna Gentile, Ottavia De Luca, Robert Preissner, Adriano Marcolongo, Stefano Ferracuti, and Maurizio Simmaco. 2020. "Evidence-Based Considerations Exploring Relations between SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic and Air Pollution: Involvement of PM2.5-Mediated Up-Regulation of the Viral Receptor ACE-2" International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 17, no. 15: 5573. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17155573

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