Nicotine, sea worms and plasma – the coronavirus treatments France is trialling

Nicotine is the latest drug to be touted as a possible remedy for coronavirus, but it is just one of many possible treatments currently being tested in France.

Nicotine, sea worms and plasma - the coronavirus treatments France is trialling
Photo: AFP


The Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris is to start a trial using nicotine patches after preliminary studies suggested that smokers were less likely to contract the virus.

However this isn't a reason to take up smoking – smokers who do catch coronavirus are likely to be more seriously ill because of the existing damage to their lungs.

Respiratory conditions such as lung cancer and emphysema, frequently associated with smoking, are high among the list of underlying illnesses found among people who have died from coronavirus.

READ ALSO What do we know about the people who have died from coronavirus in France

But the nicotine found in cigarettes may help prevent the virus from spreading around the body, and prevent the extreme immune reactions seen in some patients.

The hospital team is awaiting permission from the Health Ministry to start to study.

Marseille-based professor Didier Raoult has been a strong advocate of chloroquine. Photo: AFP


This is without doubt the most high-profile of the studies going on in France, due in part to US president Donald Trump touting it as a 'wonder drug'.

The clinical trial in France into chloroquine – a commonly used anti-malaria medication – is still ongoing but there have been reports of severe side effects in patients including heart problems.

Other trials on it throughout the world have produced similarly mixed results.

Plasma from recovered patients

Several hospitals in Paris are experimenting with transfusing the blood plasma of patients who have recovered from coronavirus to seriously ill patients, in the hope that the antibodies present in the blood will help.

Patients in the Grand-Est, Île-de-France and Bourgogne-Franche-Comté – the worst affected regions – who have been symptom free for 14 days are being contacted and asked if they would be willing to donate blood.

Sea worms

The blood of a certain type of sea worm is particularly rich in haemoglobin, so it is hoped it could increase oxygen levels in patients who are experiencing severe respiratory difficulties.

If that all sounds a bit medieval, it's not the whole worm that is used, just a molecule derived from its blood. Trials are currently ongoing at three Paris hospitals.

Testing is ongoing on a variety of pre-existing drugs. Photo: AFP


There are also a variety of more conventional treatments being tested, including the existing drugs for AIDS, hepatitis and Ebola.

The French Health Ministry has given permission for a six-week trial of these drugs on around 800 seriously ill patients in hospitals around France.


Weighty French daily Le Monde felt moved to assure its readers that the classic French blue cheese is not a coronavirus cure, after a viral Facebook post claimed that is is being tested by Professor Raoult.


“A Facebook post shared with us states that Professor Raoult is said to have been working with “Penicillium roqueforti” to find a cure for Covid-19. But this is not true,” the newspaper stated.

This is actually a rumour that surfaces fairly regularly about roquefort, due to the fact that the mould that makes it blue belongs to the same family as penicillin.

However so far it has not been reliably proved to be a cure for anything, apart from possibly cheese cravings.



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France launches ski safety campaign after rising number of accidents

Injuries and even deaths while skiing in France have seen a sharp rise in recent years - leading the French government to create a new ski safety campaign.

France launches ski safety campaign after rising number of accidents

The early part of the ski season in France was dominated by headlines over the lack of snow in popular mountain resorts – but, now that climatic conditions have started to improve for skiers and there is at least some snow, the winter sports season is in gearing up to hit full swing.

READ ALSO Snow latest: Have France’s ski resorts reopened?

Heading into the winter holiday season – French schools in ‘Zone A’ break up for two weeks on February 4th, followed on February 11th by schools in ‘Zone B’, while schools in Zone C finish for the vacation on February 18th – the government has launched an awareness campaign highlighting skiing good practice and how to avoid accidents.

READ ALSO What can I do if I’ve booked a French skiing holiday and there’s no snow?

The Pratiquer l’hiver campaign has advice, posters and videos highlighting safety on the slopes, in an effort to reduce the number of accidents on France’s mountains – where, every year, between 42,000 and 51,000 people have to be rescued, according to the Système National d’Observation de la Sécurité en Montagne (SNOSM)

The campaign, with information in a number of languages including English, covers:

  • on-piste and off-piste safety advice (signalling, avalanche risks, freestyle areas, snowshoes, ski touring, etc.);
  • Help and instructions for children explained in a fun and educational way (educational games, games of the 7 families to be cut out, safety quizzes, advice sheets for sledding, skiing, prevention clips, etc.);
  • physical preparation (warm up before exercise, prepare your muscles and stretch well, also how to adapt the choice of pistes and the speed to your physical condition);
  • equipment and safety (helmet, goggles, sunscreen, etc.);
  • marking and signalling on the slopes (opening and marking of green, blue, red and black slopes, off-piste).

There are 220 ski resorts in France, the world’s second largest ski area, covering more than 26,500 hectares of land, across 30 departements.

In the 2021/22 ski season, totalling 53.9 million ‘ski days’, according to SNOSM, emergency services made 49,622 interventions in France’s ski areas, and 45,985 victims were treated for injuries.

The results show an increase in the number of interventions by ski safety services – a rise of 13 percent compared to the average of the five years prior to the pandemic – and the number of injured, up 8 percent. 

A few incidents on the slopes made the headlines at the time, including the five-year-old British girl who died after an adult skier crashed into her in the Alpine resort of Flaine, and the French actor Gaspard Ulliel, who died at the age of 37 after an accident while skiing in La Rosière, Savoie.

In total, 12 people died as a result of skiing incidents in France in the 2021/22 ski season. Three died following collisions between skiers, two after hitting an obstacle, and seven as a result of a fall or solo injuries. SNOSM also reported “a significant number of non-traumatic deaths, mostly due to cardiac problems” on France’s ski slopes.

The injuries due to solo falls – which represent 95 percent of all injuries –  on the ski slopes increased 2 percent compared to winter 2018/2019. Collisions between users fell, however (4.8 percent against . 5.6 percent) as did collisions between skiers and other people, and obstacles (0.7 percent compared to 0.85 percent).

The number of fatalities caused by avalanches, however, is at a historic low over the period 2011 to 2021, in part because of a relative lack of snow – leading to a drop in the number of avalanches and fewer people going off-piste, while awareness campaigns are hitting their mark, according to SNOSM.