Holding breadth may increase risk of COVID infection

Chennai, Jan 11 (FN Bureau) Researchers at the IIT-Madras (IIT-M) have found that holding one’s breath might increase the risk of getting COVID-19 infection. The researchers modelled the breathing frequency in a laboratory to better understand how the rate of flow of droplet laden with virus determines the deposition of the virus in the lungs. The found that the process of virus-laden droplets being transported into deep lung increases with decreasing breathing frequency. The Research Team modelled the breathing frequency in a laboratory and found that low breathing frequency increases the time of residence of the virus and therefore it increases chances of deposition and consequently the infection.

Also, the multi-scale lung structure has a significant effect on a person’s susceptibility to COVID-19, a release from IIT-M said today. The research was led by Prof Mahesh Panchagnula, Department of Applied Mechanics, IIT Madras, with his research scholars Mr Arnab Kumar Mallik and Mr Soumalya Mukherjee. The findings of this study were published in the international reputed peer-reviewed journal Physics of Fluids. Prof Mahesh Panchagnula said “COVID-19 has opened a gap in our understanding of deep pulmonological systemic diseases. Our study unravels the mystery behind how particles are transported and deposited in the deep lung.” The study demonstrates the physical process by which aerosol particles were transported into the deep generations of the lung, he said. The team reported that holding the breath and having low breathing rate could increase chances of virus deposition in the lungs. The study was conducted to pave the way for developing better therapies and drugs for respiratory infections. Previous work from the group has also highlighted the significant variability in aerosol uptake from individual to individual, suggesting a reason why some people are more susceptible to airborne diseases than others.

Airborne infections such as Coronavirus spread immensely through sneezing and coughing as it instantly releases a lot of tiny droplets. The IIT-M team imitated the droplet dynamics in the lung by studying the movement of droplets in the small capillaries which were of a diameter similar to bronchioles. They took water mixed with fluorescent particles and generated aerosols from this liquid using a nebulizer. These fluorescent aerosols were used to track the movement and deposition of particles in the capillaries. The researchers studied the movement of the fluorescent aerosol particles in capillaries of size ranging from 0.3 to 2 mm which covers the range of bronchiole diameters. They found that the deposition was inversely proportional to the aspect ratio of capillaries, which suggests that the droplets are likely to deposit in longer bronchioles.