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E-cigarette and vape uses more prone to infection

Vaping products are potentially altering the oral microbial community, making an individual more prone to disease.

The World Health Organization considers electronic cigarettes to be harmful to health
The World Health Organization considers electronic cigarettes to be harmful to health - Copyright AFP ARIS MESSINIS
The World Health Organization considers electronic cigarettes to be harmful to health - Copyright AFP ARIS MESSINIS

Users of nicotine products are more susceptible to contracting an infection. One research study identified an abundance of Porphyromonas (a genus of Gram-negative bacteria implicated in periodontal disease) and Veillonella (a different group of Gram-negatives associated with cases of osteomyelitis and endocarditis) in higher levels among vapers, suggesting that vaping alters the oral microbiome. The oral microbiome has an established relationship to overall health and it is the second and most diverse microbiota next to the gut, home to over 1,000 species of microbes.

Disruptions to this community can lead to health implications. Of particular concern is the bacterium Porphyromonas gingivalis. Enzymes produced by the bacterium can attack collagen.

Periodontal, or gum, disease is one of the most common infectious diseases worldwide. In its more severe forms, such as periodontitis, the condition causes loss of the bone that supports the teeth. In addition to gum disease, the bacterium has been linked to rheumatoid arthritis.

Ecosystem stability can be affected by two types of disturbances: long-term influences or “presses” and short-term effects or “pulses”. Furthermore, the researchers discovered that interleukin (IL)-6 and IL-1?, a pro-inflammatory cytokines which indicate inflammatory responses, were highly elevated in e-cigarette users when compared with non-users. In particular, epithelial cell-exposed e-cigarette aerosols were more susceptible for infection. This led to the assessment that e-cigarette users are more prone to infection. This occurs because alterations to the microbial landscape, which accompanies higher levels of proteins in vapers’ mouths, signals that the immune system is more likely to activate and produce inflammation. In turn this exponentially increases the likelihood for disease.

Additionally, sequencing based studies have shown that certain species of bacteria (Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa) are more strongly associated with the development of a
lung community skewed towards loss of diversity. Concerningly, these organisms are associated with declining lung function. It appears that e-cigarette vapor can change the way the bacteria grow, by increasing volume and the area covered by the bacteria, which can lead to infections if untreated.

The association between the oral cavity and disease is complex, with the pathogenicity of chronic periodontal disease a factor of the complex interaction of microbial pathogens, host immune response, and genetic and environmental factors. The drawing in of chemical vapor adds to the environmental complexity and appears to be a microbiome altering factor. However, what stands out from research is the general trend that the majority of the metagenome in e-cigarette users was shared by more than the majority of users, which contrasts with smokers and non-smokers, who do not tend to share their bacterial and fungal composition.

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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