Cigs and E-Cigs Help Bacteria Become Drug Resistant
Cigarette smoke and even electronic cigarette "vapor" may be contributing to an increased rate of antibiotic resistance among microbes, a new study suggests.
Last month the World Health Organization (WHO) expressed its concern that the Earth may be approaching a "post-antibiotic era - in which common infections and minor injuries can kill," after releasing a report that indicated primary treatments for a number of life-threatening bacterial infections are already ineffective for at least 50 percent of the world's patients.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned Americans back in March that the overuse of antibiotics was the driving cause of an increased prevalence of AMR bacteria.
However, new research has found evidence that smoking and even electronic cigarette use may be encouraging potentially harmful microbes to develop AMR as well.
Researchers at the VA San Diego Healthcare System (VASDHS) and the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) reportedly exposed live methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) - a strain of staph infection - to nicotine vapor from an e-cigarette device or smoke from a traditional cigarette.
According to an American Thoracic Society (ATS) new release, the MRSA became noticeably more virulent after both of these cigarette-related exposures. Rapid changes in pH level exposures in particular caused the surface charge and biofilm formation of the MRSA to change, which provided greater resistance to attack from human cells and antibiotics.
Lead investigator Laura E. Crotty Alexander told the ATS that despite their claims to being a "healthy" alternative, these results show that electronic cigarettes can pose some health risks. However, the research also showed that the rate at which the AMR traits developed was nearly tenfold in cigarette smoke-exposed bacteria, compared e-cigarette vapor-exposed MRSA.
"While the answer isn't black and white, our study suggests [that] even if e-cigarettes may not be as bad as tobacco, they still have measurable detrimental effects on health," she said.
The findings of this research were presented at the 2014 American Thoracic Society International Conference, in San Diego, California, and should be viewed as preliminary findings until they are published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
An ATS press release detailing the study was published on May 18.