New research from the University of Bath has demonstrated that cigarette smoke can make MRSA bacterial strains more resistant to antibiotics.
In addition to the effect on MRSA, cigarette smoke exposure can make some strains of Staphylococcus aureus more invasive and persistent. Researchers believe that the stress that cigarette smoke puts on this strain of Staphylococcus shocks the bacteria into a ‘state of emergency’ increasing the rate of mutation in microbial DNA. This ‘state of emergency’ makes the bacteria stronger and more resistant to anti-biotics.
Lead author Dr Maisem Laabei, from the University of Bath’s Department of Biology & Biochemistry, said: “We expected some effects but we didn’t anticipate smoke would affect drug-resistance to this degree. We recognise that exposure in a lab is different to inhaled smoke over a long time, but it seems reasonable to hypothesise, based on our research and others’ that stressful conditions imposed by smoking induce responses in microbial cells leading to adaptation to harsh conditions, with the net effect of increasing virulence and/or potential for infection.”
Dr Maisem Laabei continues: “Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, and cigarette smoke has over 4,800 compounds within it.”
“We wanted to study S. aureus because it’s so common in humans and it can cause a range of diseases, so we wanted to see what happened when we exposed it to smoke.”
“These Small Colony Variants are highly adhesive, invasive and persistent. They can sit around for a long time, are difficult to kick out, and are linked to chronic infections. We hope that our work provides another reason for people not to smoke and for current smokers to quit.”
The scientist from the University of Bath are now going to shift their focus to study how air pollution for diesel exhaust fumes and other sources of pollution.