Link Found Between E-Cigarettes and Lung Infections

3 min read  |  September 18, 2019  | 

With their flavored puffs of disappearing vapor and USB chargers, electronic cigarettes may seem ‘clean’ and harmless. But e-cigarettes increase the risk for certain lung infections among users, according to the CDC. As of September 11, the agency announced the sixth death associated with vaping and severe lung disease.

A team from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine recently published a study that helps explain the relationship between the use of electronic cigarettes and the risk of developing mycobacteria-related lung infections. Specifically, they report that chemicals found in e-cigarettes enhance the replication of mycobacteria, causing a lung infection that is difficult to treat. The findings were published in the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology.

“Our findings are alarming because e-cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular,” said Dr. Mehdi Mirsaeidi, MPH, assistant professor in the Miller School Department of Medicine’s Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care, who was senior author of the journal article.

A growing epidemic

E-cigarettes were introduced to the US marketplace in 2007, and are now the most commonly used tobacco product among youth.

On August 17th of this year, the CDC released a statement that they were investigating 94 cases; by September 11 that number was up to 450.

“According to the Food and Drug Administration, currently more than eight million people smoke e-cigarettes in the U.S., including a growing number of adolescents seeking social approval,” said Dr. Mirsaeidi. “Other research has shown that non-smoker adolescents who try e-cigarettes — which are marketed as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes — are likely to initiate cigarette smoking in the future.”

Prior studies show that e-cigarettes vaporize nicotine, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, and flavoring chemicals that enter the lungs, trigger inflammation, and alter gene expression. Nonetheless, few studies shed light on the interaction between e-cigarettes and mycobacteria.

Lung infection link

Doctors and researchers at the University of Miami Health System set out to understand the connection. Their analysis showed definitively that the chemicals in nicotine vape cartridges actually enhance the replication of these dangerous bacteria and increase key inflammatory molecules.

The researchers called their findings “alarming.” It confirms that the growing population of e-cigarette users, including adolescents, are at increased risk for pulmonary infections. The next step is to request funding from private and governmental institutes, including the National Institutes of Health, for a larger study.

Dr. Mirsaeidi’s Miller School faculty co-authors were Dr. Michael Campos, Dr. Gregory Conner, Dr. Nevis Fregien, and Dr. Gregory Holt.

Written by Robert Benchley, senior editor for Inventum.

Tags: Dr. Mehdi Mirsaeidi, e-cigarettes, lung infections, mycobacteria, pulmonology, vaping

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