Mathematical models to prevent serious lung illnesses in COVID-19 patients

The researchers used mathematical models to show how the viruses that infect the mucous lining of the respiratory tract spread as droplets to lungs, causing serious illnesses

February 20, 2023 09:18 pm | Updated 10:58 pm IST - CHENNAI

For a person infected with COVID-19 virus, giving medicines to control sneezing and coughing can prevent formation of infected mucous droplets in the nose and throat and their transmission to deep lungs. Also, vaccination can prevent a person from developing pneumonia or serious lung diseases, say a team of researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M), Jadavpur University and Northwestern University, U.S.

They conducted simulation studies to understand the transmission of infection from the nose and throat to the lower respiratory tract. The researchers used mathematical models to show how the viruses that infect the mucous lining of the respiratory tract spread as droplets to the lungs, causing serious illnesses and thus become lethal. The researchers published their findings in the open source journal Frontiers in Physiology.

Mahesh Panchagnula, Dean (Alumni and Corporate Relations), IIT-M and faculty, Department of Applied Mechanics; Aranyak Chakravarty, assistant professor in the Department of Nuclear Studies and Applications of Jadavpur University and Neelesh A. Patankar, professor of Mechanical Engineering in Northwestern University, conducted the research.

Mr. Panchagnula said the theory of droplet transmission was examined through a mathematical model. “Our model showed that lung distress can occur within 2.5 to 7 days after the first symptom of COVID-19 infection occurs. This happens when the infected mucous droplets are transported from the nose and throat to the lungs.”

While cough syrups and expectorants will stem droplet formation in the infected person thus preventing sneezing or coughing, infection growth and severity of the disease depended upon the immune response of the infected person, Mr. Chakravarty said.

Mr. Patnakar said their finding reinforced the importance of vaccination in preventing severe infection. “Vaccines help the body make special cells called B-lymphocytes and T-lymphocytes (or memory cells). T-lymphocytes suppress virus multiplication. B-lymphocytes generate antibodies that destroy the virus.”

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