‘Vaping’ Electronic Cigarettes May Increase Risk of Bacterial Infections: Study

New research raises further concerns about the potential safety risks of “vaping” electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs, finding that the devices may weaken the immune system and make users more susceptible to contracting infections. 

In a study published in the medical journal PLOS ONE on February 5, researchers indicate that mice exposed to e-cigarette vapor are more at risk of becoming infecting with viral and bacterial infections, and some even died as a result. Researchers expressed concerns that these findings may translate to similar side eeffects in humans.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health compared two groups of mice. One group was exposed to e-cigarette vapor for two weeks in a specially made inhalation chamber for mice. The chamber contained vapor and nicotine concentrations comparable to human e-cigarette use. The second group was exposed to only fresh air.

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Those two groups were then divided into three subgroups. The first subgroup was given nasal drops containing the Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria, which is responsible for the development of pneumonia and sinusitis in humans. The second group was given nasal drops containing the Influenza A virus. The third subgroup was not exposed to a bacteria or virus.

Mice exposed to the vapor showed significantly impaired pulmonary bacterial changes. Those exposed to the vapor were much more likely to develop infections. Some became very sick and some died from infections.

“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 Johns Hopkins.

Another study published in November 2014 also revealed e-cigarettes may have a greater harmful effect to the pulmonary function than researchers initially thought. The research focused on the way the flavorings are designed to be released in ultra-fine aerosols that penetrate deeply into the lungs, potentially causing serious health effects.

The latest study revealed e-cigarette vapor caused substantial inflammation of the lungs and protein damage. The vapor also significantly increased oxidative stress and moderate macrophage-mediated inflammation.

This may be in part because of the many harmful chemicals e-cigarette vapor contains. Research published in January concluded many users smoke the devices at a higher voltage, causing exposure to a greater amount of formaldehyde, increasing the risk of leukemia and nasopharyngeal cancer.

A Japanese study published late last year revealed some brands of e-cigarette devices release ten times the amount of some cancer-causing agents when compared to traditional tobacco cigarettes.

The mice exposed to vapor in the new study also had signs of blood nicotine levels comparable to someone who smokes traditional cigarettes regularly.

Researchers determined that exposure to the e-cigarette vapor increased the mice’s susceptibility to illness and mortality.

Often patients who are diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease will switch from cigarettes to e-cigarettes after diagnosis. The new study’s findings indicate that these patients are making themselves more susceptible to bacterial and viral infections.

The study comes as more and more consumers turn to e-cigarettes, both because they can often be used in-doors and because they are seen as a form of smoking cessation. A study published last year revealed smokers are turning to e-cigarettes more as a way to stop smoking. Nearly 60% of smokers who use smoking cessation devices choose e-cigarettes, compared to 40% who turn to medication.

2 Comments

  • RonSeptember 21, 2022 at 3:20 am

    My pee was / is super stinky too. Was in the hospital for a week getting treatment for UTI till better. No joke

  • BoDecember 5, 2020 at 9:34 pm

    I started vape and per smell bad. Kidney started hurting. 8 got some meds pain stop but pee still smelling. I believe it's from vapeing

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