Lung conditions such as COPD, as well as risk factors such as alcohol misuse and cigarette smoking, can exacerbate COVID-19 disease severity. Synergistically, these risk factors can have a significant impact on immunity against pathogens. Here, we studied the effect of a short exposure to alcohol and/or cigarette smoke extract (CSE) in vitro on acute SARS-CoV-2 infection of ciliated human bronchial epithelial cells (HBECs) collected from healthy and COPD donors. We observed an increase in viral titer in CSE- or alcohol-treated COPD HBECs compared to untreated COPD HBECs. Furthermore, we treated healthy HBECs accompanied by enhanced lactate dehydrogenase activity, indicating exacerbated injury. Finally, IL-8 secretion was elevated due to the synergistic damage mediated by alcohol, CSE, and SARS-CoV-2 in COPD HBECs. Together, our data suggest that, with pre-existing COPD, short exposure to alcohol or CSE is sufficient to exacerbate SARS-CoV-2 infection and associated injury, impairing lung defences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number498
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • alcohol
  • cigarette smoking
  • COPD
  • lung injury
  • SARS-CoV-2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Molecular Biology
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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