The rate of mortality due to coronavirus might be related to higher levels of pollution in the area. A study by researchers at Cambridge University explored the link between higher levels of air pollutants and the number of deaths, in England.

In a preliminary study, Medical Research Council Toxicology Unit at Cambridge University compared regional data of COVID-19 cases and related deaths along with levels of three major air pollutants found in the environment. According to Mirror, the details suggest that the study included data from seven regions in England where a minimum of 2000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 200 deaths were reported until Wednesday, April 8. The data was compared against air pollution figures recorded in the year 2018 and 2019.

It was discovered that the levels of nitrogen dioxide and nitrogen oxide was highest in London, Midlands and the North West. The lowest levels of these pollutants were in southern England. The comparative data of these cities against the number of deaths due to COVID-19 unveiled the same trend. It was found out that the cities with a higher level of pollutants witnessed more fatalities than the ones with lower pollution.

"Our results provide the first evidence that SARS-CoV-2 case fatality is associated with increased nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide levels in England," Marco Travaglio, a PhD student at the MRC Toxicology Unit said. "London, the Midlands and the North West show the largest concentration of these air pollutants, with southern regions displaying the lowest levels in the country, and the number of Covid-19 deaths follows a similar trend," he added.

The study is expected to contribute to the scientists' quest to understand the virus behaviour better and why some people are at more risk than others. The results are eventually expected to help the researchers' design effective treatment plan against the fast-spreading virus causing severe respiratory illness across the globe.

Meanwhile, the study is yet to be peer-reviewed and it only provides "correlation between dirty air and more severe COVID-19 disease." Researchers insist that there is a need for further investigation. Nevertheless, they believe that their findings only add to the findings of other studies from northern Italy and the United States.

"Our study adds to growing evidence from Northern Italy and the USA that high levels of air pollution are linked to deadlier cases of COVID-19," Miguel Martins, senior author on the study said. "This highlights the importance of reducing air pollution for the protection of human health, both in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond," he added.

A Harvard study suggests an increase in the rate of COVID-19 related deaths in the areas with high population and particulate matter PM2.5.

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India's nationwide coronavirus lockdown, the biggest in the world which covers 1.3 billion people, has been extended until at least May 3. Photo: AFPTV / Atish PATEL

"It is one of the first studies substantiating our suspicion and the hypothesis that severity of the COVID-19 infection may be augmented by particulate matter air pollution," Prof Annette Peters told BBC News. However, the study is yet to be peer-reviewed.