Microbes in tobacco products: health and policy implications

OK I am going to have to confess something here.  Though I am a bit of an obsessed microbiologist who looks for the connection of just about everything to microbiology I never thought about this -what are the potential health effects of microbes in tobacco products?  That is the question addresses in a new paper in the Journal of Oncology: Cigarette Smoke, Bacteria, Mold, Microbial Toxins, and Chronic Lung Inflammation.

Cigarette smoke

This paper is a bit unusual and I am not sure what to make of it.  Some parts seem a bit awkward to me while others seems very interesting.  The basic summary is as follows – the authors surveyed much of the literature on the study of microbes found in tobacco products that are “consumed” by people (e.g., leaves) and found that a diverse array of microbial factors have been found.  They then wonder about the possible health effects of such microbes and suggest that this should be looked at more carefully especially in light of the enormous amount of work on chemicals in tobacco products and their health effects.

What strikes me as most interesting about this is the parallel here to work on some aspects of microbiology of the built environment.  What they are arguing in this paper is that microbes should not be ignored compared to chemical analyses.  Certainly I agree with that sentiment.  Again, not sure whether microbes in tobacco are a big deal or not relative to the carcinogens, toxins and other things one gets from tobacco products, but it is worth thinking about.

So the paper got me thinking and then I decided to look around with the help of google – and I found much more about this than I expected including the following:

These and many other reports all related to a study published in 2009: Amy R. Sapkota, Sibel Berger, and Timothy M. Vogel, ‘Human Pathogens Abundant in the Bacterial Metagenome of Cigarettes’, Environmental Health Perspectives, 2009, doi: 10.1289/ehp.0901201

Of course I should have known there might be more on this out there – as cigarettes and tobacco products are studied extensively and there are other obsessed (or even non obsessed) microbiologists out there.  These searches also led me to find some interesting studies on the exposure of workers making tobacco products to microbes.  For example see:

Still not sure what to make of the “microbes in tobacco” story yet.  But it is something worth considering in the context of tobacco and health.  And given that cigarette smoke certainly can be an important component of the indoor environment, this is something to consider in the context of microbiology of the built environment.

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One Response to Microbes in tobacco products: health and policy implications

  1. Pingback: Crosspost: An ecosystem in my house? Yes indeed. And with microbes too. #BostonGlobe #microBEnet | microBEnet: The microbiology of the Built Environment network.

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