CHENNAI: Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M) researchers have found that holding one's breath increases the chances of contracting COVID-19.
The research gains importance as people often tend to inhale quickly and hold their breath to avoid taking in the virus in crowded areas. An understanding of the physics of this phenomenon could be crucial in mitigating the progression of the disease.
The research has found that the process of virus-laden droplets being transported deep into the lungs increases with low breathing frequency, according to a statement issued by the institute on Monday. On modelling low breathing frequency in the lab, the researchers found that there was an increase in the time of residence of the virus in the lungs, consequently raising the chances of contracting COVID-19.
The research was conducted by Arnab Kumar Mallik and Soumalya Mukherjee and was led by Mahesh Panchagnula of the Department of Applied Mechanics. The findings of this study were published in the international peer-reviewed journal Physics of Fluids, the statement said.
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 are transported into the deep generations of the lung," he explained, adding that the team reported that holding the breath and having low breathing rate can increase chances of virus deposition in the lungs.
Airborne infections such as the coronavirus spread through sneezing and coughing as it instantly releases a lot of tiny droplets. The researchers 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 in the lungs, the statement said. They further mixed water 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 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 variability in aerosol uptake from individual to individual, suggesting a reason why some people are more susceptible to airborne diseases than others, the statement added.