E-cigarette Vapor Impairs Immune Response

e-cigarette vapor impairs immune response

New study finds that e-cigarette vapor impairs immune response

A new study finds that e-cigarette vapor impairs immune response . Mice exposed to e-cigarette vapor had a compromised immune response to infection by both bacteria and viruses.

E-cigarettes, a device used for “smoking” without actually smoking. The devices consist of a reservoir holding liquid connected to a heating element that atomizes a liquid that’s inhaled. This liquid can have nicotine in various concentrations though there are nicotine free alternatives in various flavors. Sales of E-cigarettes have skyrocketed over the past five years due to aggressive marketing and increased restrictions on regular cigarettes. Previous articles on this site have explored various aspects of e-cigarettes in detail, feel free to check them out here, here and here. New research from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health find that e-cigarette vapor impairs immune response in mice and have a large amounts of free radicals. 

E-cigarette Vapor Impairs Immune Response

The findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Free radicals are extremely reactive atoms that can cause DNA and tissue damage. The damage caused by these radicals is a risk factor contributing to the development of cancer. Regular cigarette smoke contain 1014 free radicals per puff, a huge amount. These dangerous compounds drives inflammation and “cell suicide” caused by smoking tobacco products.

In this study researchers used a cigarette smoking machine to subject e-cigarette vapor to groups of mice to test how dangerous the vapor is. The amount of vapor mice were exposed to were meant to simulate normal “vaping” behavior, the amount of vapor a person would be subjected to. 

Researchers found that smoking E-cigarettes generated fewer free radicals that regular cigarette smoke but still a substantial amount, 7 x 1011 per puff. After two weeks researchers found that mice exposed to e-cigarette vapor had developed a low grade lung inflammation by inhaling the vapor. They found a higher number of the white blood cell macrophages in their lung tissue.

We were surprised by how high that number was, considering that e-cigarettes do not produce combustion products,” Sussan says. “Granted, it’s 100 times lower than cigarette smoke, but it’s still a high number of free radicals that can potentially damage cells.”

Mice exposed to E-cigarette vapor also got other negative health effects. After being exposed to the E-cigarette vapor daily for two weeks researchers infected different mice with influenza virus or the bacteria streptococcus pneumoniae to test their immune responses to infection. They found that mice inhaling E-cigarette vapor had compromised immune responses to both the viruses and bacteria. Some of the mice inhaling e-cigarette vapor even died as a result of the infection.

“Our findings suggest that e-cigarettes are not neutral in terms of the effects on the lungs,” notes senior author Shyam Biswal, PhD, a professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Bloomberg School. “We have observed that they increase the susceptibility to respiratory infections in the mouse models. This warrants further study in susceptible individuals, such as COPD patients who have switched from cigarettes to e-cigarettes or to new users of e-cigarettes who may have never used cigarettes.”

Though probably better than regular smoking, that e-cigarette vapor impairs immune response and that the vapor contains an unhealthy amount of free radicals is worrisome. This study adds to existing evidence that E-cigarettes are probably not a healthy alternative to smoking as advertisements for e-cigarettes would have us believe.

Image Credit: Terry Ozon via flickr.com, CC BY-2.0