Smoking or Tuberculosis? It’s your choice

Smoking ImageAllie White (12:00 Micro) found two articles from Science Daily (here and here) describing a significant causal link between rates of smoking and the incidence of tuberculosis.  Here is Allie’s summary:

Throughout the past couple of years there has been an increase in the amount of bacteria that are resistance to antibiotics. According to many scientists, one of these top microorganisms is Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Every year M. tuberculosis takes the lives of 1.5 million individuals. Once an individual contracts M. tuberculosis, it becomes quite hard to fight it off. Since scientists know this fact, one of the main ideas they are pushing is prevention by making changes in everyday life. According to Medical scientists at Trinity College Dublin and St. James Hospital , the main drive of the tuberculosis epidemic is smoking. This concept is not new, back into 2011 the British Medical Journal stated that smoking could lead to an excess of 40 million deaths by 2050. Because of this discovery that smoking contributes to tuberculosis, there is more of a push to anti-smoking campaigns across the globe.

One positive contribution finding this discovery is the fact that it has opened more doors to therapy and vaccines for the treatment of tuberculosis. So how does smoking cause tuberculosis? Well in order to answer this question individuals must look at tuberculosis facts and statistics. Tuberculosis spreads from person to person by inhaling droplets that come out the infected individual’s mouth. Nine million people, often immunosuppressed, get sick every year by inhaling droplets from people who are infected with tuberculosis. Over the years many outbreaks and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis cases have occurred in many countries across the entire world.  Smoking increases this risk dramatically. Smoking increases the risk of recurrence, mortality, and persistent infectiousness of tuberculosis. It is important to note that the exact reason behind the connection between smoking and tuberculosis is still quite uncertain.

At St. James Hospital in Dublin, a group of researchers conducted a study that compared smokers, non-smokers, and ex-smokers. The results of the study supports that smoking and tuberculosis have a connection. The study revealed that the white blood cells located in the lungs of people who have smoked in their life, smokers and ex-smokers, had a weaker response to a tuberculosis infection. With white blood cells malfunctioning, they are unable to make the neurotransmitter that normally combats M. tuberculosis. An interesting result of this study shows that these malfunctioned white blood cells suppress the lungs immunity after infection, which is a perfect environment for M. tuberculosis to thrive and take over. Because of this study and the results it has found shows that tuberculosis and smoking are linked together. Since they are in fact linked together, the efforts on anti-smoking should be increased because the less people that smoke the less people get tuberculosis. According to Joseph Keane, the head of the study

Tuberculosis remains a huge global health problem, the affects millions worldwide . . . making smoking the biggest global driver of the TB epidemic.

Tuberculosis is no joke. Not only should the awareness of anti-smoking increase but it also is important to note that tuberculosis is very resistant to antibiotics. Therefore, research, time, and money must be put into both anti-smoking and new vaccine/antibiotic efforts.



About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on November 21, 2014, in Guest Post. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Gracen Schilling

    This article is very interesting. Tuberculosis is obviously a huge issue along with smoking but no one seems to be making a huge push to end either. Hopefully this news leads to a push to end both of these.

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