Do e-cigarettes affect the immune system?

E-Cigarettes Impair Immune Responses To Strep And The Flu, Study Finds

E-cigarettes have been garnering some very bad press lately, and this latest look into their role in immune response within the lungs is just another strike against electronic cigarettes. E-cigarettes have rapidly grown in popularity among ex-smokers, current smokers, and even people who have never smoked a cigarette before. Recently, as reported by Inquisitr, a study found that e-cigarette users experienced five to 15 times the exposure and cancer risks from formaldehyde compared to traditional cigarette smokers. The latest study presents some more immediate risks that could be associated with e-cigarette use.

A study on rodents performed by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers showed that the electronic version of cigarettes, while presumed by many users as safe, significantly compromise immune functioning in the lungs. The researchers findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Mice exposed to e-cigarette vapor were found to be significantly more likely to develop poor immune response to both the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae and the virus Influenza A. In some cases, the immune response to the virus or bacteria in the mice was so poor that it led to death, according to Science Daily.

“E-cigarette vapor alone produced mild effects on the lungs, including inflammation and protein damage,” Dr. Thomas Sussan, lead author of the study, explained. “However, when this exposure was followed by a bacterial or viral infection, the harmful effects of e-cigarette exposure became even more pronounced. The e-cigarette exposure inhibited the ability of mice to clear the bacteria from their lungs, and the viral infection led to increased weight loss and death indicative of an impaired immune response.”

In addition, the researchers found that vapor from e-cigarettes contains known toxins called free radicals which can damage DNA and cause cellular death. While the free radicals in the e-cigarettes were still much less than in Marlboros, Camels and other smoked cigarettes, the researchers say they were still shocked at the level of free radicals that resulted from vaping e-cigarettes.

According to the CDC, more than 250,000 teenagers who say they never smoked a cigarette said that they vaped e-cigarettes in 2013. The researchers called on much more rigorous testing on e-cigarettes and their role in immune response to bacterial and viral infections.

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