New research reveals e-cigarettes may hinder a body's ability to fight off bacteria and actually increase the power of drug-resistant bacteria.
A study conducted by researchers at the VA San Diego Healthcare System and University of California, San Diego explored the impact e-cigarette vapor has on live methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, the MRSA virus, as well as human epthielial cells.
"The virulence of MRSA is increased by e-cigarette vapor," said lead investigator Laura E. Crotty Alexander, MD, VA researcher and assistant professor of medicine in pulmonary and critical care at UCSD, in a press release.
The release states exposure to e-cigarette vapor increased the virulence of the bacteria, helping MRSA escape killing by antimicrobial peptides and macrophages. The vapor, said Alexander, did not make the bacteria as aggressive as cigarette smoke exposure did in parallel studies her group conducted.
According to the release, researchers grew MRSA (USA 300 strain) in culture with vapor concentrations similar to inhalers on the market. They tested first for biochemical changes in the culture known to promote pathogen virulence and then introduced epithelial cell- and alveolar macrophage-killing assays. The study focused on five factors that contribute to MRSA: growth rate, susceptibility to reactive oxygen species, surface charge, hydrophobicity and biofilm formation.
The study states e-cigarette vapor led to alterations in surface charge and biofilm formation, which conferred greater resistance to killing by human cells and antibiotics.
"As health care professionals, we are always being asked by patients, "Would this be better for me?" Crotty Alexander said. "In the case of smoking e-cigarettes, I hated not having an answer. While the answer isn't black and white, our study suggests a response: even if e-cigarettes may not be as bad as tobacco, they still have measurable detrimental effects on health."
The research is just the latest in a string of reports on e-cigarettes and potential harmful attributes.
Claims that e-cigarettes are not a danger to smokers and nonsmokers and offer a viable healthy way to quit a nicotine habit are not true, according to a study on the electronic smoking devices released in the past two weeks.
A UC San Francisco research team states there is no evidence to support the claims from e-cigarette makers and advocates.
Another study claims particles from inhaled vapor are being absorbed in deep lung tissue and could present health issues. Another claims the e-cigarette vapor may feature potential carcinogenic elements.