Cigarette Smoking Toughens Superbugs, New Study Reveals

By @hyaluronidase on
New study shows that smoking can strengthen superbug MRSA
IN PHOTO: A woman holds her cigarette as she smokes in Trafalgar Square in central London October 15, 2014. REUTERS/Toby Melville

It has been established that smoking leads to long term serious illnesses, but recent study says that it contributes to more-resistant superbugs. The study, published in the journal Infection and Immunity, is set to appear online this month, April 2015.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California San Diego, discovered that the bacteria, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA, become more aggressive and highly resistant to antibiotics and immune defences with cigarette smoke exposure.

Dr Laura Crotty Alexander, Veteran Affairs San Diego Healthcare System's pulmonologist and senior author of the study, noticed that most of her patients who smoke also have MRSA infections. She wondered if both conditions are correlated and so, a study was performed.

"We already know that smoking cigarettes harms human respiratory and immune cells, and now we've shown that, on the flipside, smoke can also stress out invasive bacteria and make them more aggressive," she said.

The research performed on mice revealed that MRSA exposed to cigarette smoke can be very deadly. Forty percent of those MRSA-infected mice died from pneumonia compared to the 10 percent that were infected with regular MRSA.

MRSA belongs to the “staph” group of bacteria and is known to be resistant to most antibacterial drugs. It is the causative agent for pneumonia, as well as other serious skin infections.

It is not well understood how cigarette smoke can fuel changes in the resistant bacteria, but researchers suggest that smoke alters the chemical makeup of the bacterial cell wall, making the superbug more resistant as it gains the ability to protect itself from the body’s natural defence mechanisms.

According to Crotty Alexander, smokers are already vulnerable to infections. “Now we have evidence that cigarette smoke-induced resistance in MRSA may be an additional contributing factor,” she concluded. This now means that smoking only contributes to the deadly nature of MRSA.

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