Article of Interest: Cigarette Smoke Makes Viral Infections Worse, “It’s like smokers are using the equivalent of a sledgehammer, rather than a fly swatter, to get rid of a fly.”
Our team at the Hoffman Toxicant-Induced Loss of Tolerance (TILT) Program at UT Health San Antonio wanted to share this article from Yale News.
Until recently, scientists haven’t been able to explain why smokers have more exaggerated responses to viral infections. Smokers have been more likely than non-smokers to die during previous influenza epidemics and are more prone to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Furthermore, children who are exposed to second-hand smoke have more severe responses when infected with respiratory synctial virus.
The prevailing view has been that cigarette smoke decreases anti-viral responses. But the Yale researchers—lead author Jack A. Elias, M.D., the Waldermar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Medicine and chair of internal medicine at Yale School of Medicine, and first author Min-Jong Kang, M.D., associate research scientist—found the opposite to be true.
Their experiments showed that the immune systems of mice exposed to cigarette smoke from as little as two cigarettes a day for two weeks overreacted when they were also exposed to a mimic of the flu virus. The mice’s immune systems cleared the virus normally but the exaggerated inflammation caused increased levels of tissue damage.
“The anti-viral responses in the cigarette smoke exposed mice were not only not defective, but were hyperactive,” said Elias. “These findings suggest that smokers do not get in trouble because they can’t clear or fight off the virus; they get in trouble because they overreact to it. It’s like smokers are using the equivalent of a sledgehammer, rather than a fly swatter, to get rid of a fly.”
Read the full external article at Yale News.
Researchers at Yale School of Medicine are now closer than ever to discovering why cigarette and the smoke from other tobacco products worsen the impacts of viral illnesses.
Still, there is still work to be done.
“If the exaggerated responses are verified in human studies, it will be the first explanation for why viral infections are more serious in smokers,” said Elias. “Once verified, we can find ways to prevent the destruction of lung tissue and the higher illness and death among smokers.”
How sensitive are you?
Take the Brief Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory (BREESI) survey:
- Do you feel sick when you are exposed to tobacco smoke, certain fragrances, nail polish/remover, engine exhaust, gasoline, air fresheners, pesticides, paint/thinner, fresh tar/asphalt, cleaning supplies, new carpet or furnishings? By sick, we mean: headache, difficulty thinking, difficulty breathing, weakness, dizziness, upset stomach, etc.
- Are you unable to tolerate or do you have adverse or allergic reactions to any drugs or medications (such as antibiotics, anesthetics, pain relievers, X-ray contrast dye, vaccines or birth control pills), or to an implant, prosthesis, contraceptive chemical or device, or other medical/surgical/dental material or procedure?
- Are you unable to tolerate or do you have adverse reactions to any foods such as dairy products, wheat, corn, eggs, caffeine, alcoholic beverages, or food additives (e.g., MSG, food dye)?
If you answer YES to any of these three questions, take the Quick Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory (QEESI) and share the results with your doctor! To learn more, visit the Marilyn Brachman Hoffman TILT Program website.