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Vaping Makes Lung Bacteria More Harmful and Causes More Inflammation

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by Deirdre Gilpin and Michael Tunney for the Conversation

Bacteria commonly found in the lungs become more harmful and cause more inflammation when they have been exposed to e-cigarette vapor, in a way that could lead to diseases such as COPD and asthma.

Chronic lung disease results from a complex interplay between infection and inflammation, which can be further complicated by the toxic effects of cigarette smoke. We know that cigarettes are bad for us and, as a result, many smokers have switched to vaping instead.

But is vaping less harmful than smoking? This question has divided specialists in the field. Some, including Public Health England, maintain that vaping is less harmful and a useful way to help people stop smoking . But others, including the European Respiratory Society, argue that the evidence suggests that rather than helping, e-cigarettes are undermining people’s attempts to give up smoking.

The number of people vaping has increased dramatically in recent years. Figures from the World Health Organization show a rise from 7 million in 2011 to 41 million in 2018. And this increase isn’t solely accounted for by people switching from smoking to vaping. According to a recent US study, around 27% of high school students now vape, many of whom aren’t smokers.

The huge variety of flavors, sleek vaping devices and a social media presence contribute to making vaping more socially acceptable among young people. For this large group of vapers but non-smokers, safety comparisons between smoking and vaping are irrelevant – what they need is more information about the direct effects of vaping.

About 27% of US high school students vape. Aleksandr Yu/Shutterstock

More virulent

Bacteria play a role in the development of smoking-related lung diseases, such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Our research looked at the usual suspects in lung infection (Haemophilus influenzaeStreptococcus pneumoniaeStaphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa) and investigated the bacterial responses that had the potential to increase harm and cause long-term infection. Bacteria, grown in the laboratory, were exposed to either cigarette smoke or vape.

In chronic infections, bacteria are often found in large aggregates, called biofilms. Biofilms represent a real challenge when it comes to getting rid of infection: they are physically hard to remove, more resistant to antibiotics and harder for the body’s immune system to tackle. We found that exposure to either cigarette smoke or vape resulted in an increase in biofilm formation.

Also, when these bacteria were exposed to smoke and vape, it increased the inflammation in lung cells. In some cases, the effect following vaping exposure exceeded that of cigarette smoke exposure.

We also compared the survival of Galleria mellonella (wax moth larvae) following infection with vaped, smoked and unexposed bacteria. This is a well-established model that uses wax moth larvae to measure whether bacteria are likely to cause harm. Exposing bacteria to vape or smoke made the bacteria more virulent in the larvae.

Not quite real life, but still…

As with all studies, ours had limitations. Although our lab-based experimental procedures aimed to mimic smoking and vaping as closely as possible, it probably doesn’t exactly capture how people smoke and vape in real life.

We used a basic flavorless nicotine-containing vape and a commonly used e-cigarette. But in reality, there is a wide range of devices and thousands of e-cigarette flavors. Indeed, some flavors have been particularly associated with lung damage.Also, we only “vaped” or “smoked” bacteria once and didn’t measure the effect of long-term exposure. Vapers take deeper puffs than smokers and so we probably didn’t expose our bacteria to high enough levels of vape, so it’s possible that the effects of vape might be greater in the lungs.

So what does this study tell us about vaping safety? Exposing bacteria to vape is likely to make already harmful bacteria more dangerous and carry the same risk as exposure to cigarette smoke.

We urgently need to know more about what the long-term effect of vaping is, not just directly on the lungs but on the bacteria that might contribute to the development of diseases, such as COPD and asthma, so that the public can make an informed choice about whether to vape.


Deirdre Gilpin is a Lecturer, School of Pharmacy at Queen’s University Belfast. Michael Tunney is Professor of Clinical Pharmacy at Queen’s University Belfast.

The Conversation publishes knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence from academics and researchers in order to inform public debate with facts, clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems.

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Health

ABC Boss Hosts Fundraiser for Children’s Hospital Transyouth Center

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Dr. Johanna Olson-Kennedy, who has been treating patients at the Children's Hospital Transyouth Center since 2006.

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Report) — The ABC Network President and ‘Project Runway’ creator is honoring the work of Dr. Johanna Olson-Kennedy, who has been treating patients at the Children’s Hospital Transyouth Center since 2006.

Upon a first glance of the Bottega Lorenzetto Art Studio, visitors can see walls covered with abstract portraitures not only bold in shape and color, but also fluid in design.

The colorful gallery located on Sunset in West Hollywood became the site for a fundraiser event on Saturday aimed to benefit The Center for Transyouth Health and Development.

The fundraiser was hosted by Project Runway creator Jane Cha Cutler and ABC Network President Karey Burke, who spent the night honoring the work of Dr. Johanna Olson-Kennedy, a longtime physician at the […]

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Genea Sky, Stripper Who Fell Off 15-ft Pole, Never Wants to Dance Again

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Genea Sky — the exotic dancer who came crashing down from a 15-foot pole but kept twerking afterward — is taking a page out of the great George Michael ‘s song, “Careless Whisper,” ’cause she never wants to dance again.

Sources close to Genea tell TMZ … she’s telling friends she’s done being a stripper and doesn’t want to dance anymore, because her fall and the injuries she suffered have scared her to death.

We’re told she’s grateful for all her fellow strippers who’ve reached out with comforting messages and shared their own injury stories … it’s made Genea feel like she’s not alone.

Our sources say the painful experience has also inspired Sky to try to change the industry and improve exotic dancers’ lives … but she’s not sure how yet.

The interesting thing is … we’re told Genea’s received a ton of offers from strip clubs and been asked to appear in music vids ever since she unintentionally went viral, but she wants none of it.

Our sources say Genea’s focused on healing up right now after having surgery for a broken jaw … along with her other injuries.

It should be noted — she has made appearances in a couple popular music videos, including G-Eazy‘s “No Limit” remix … so maybe she can get back to that when she’s all better, even if her days on the pole are no more.

Tune in to TMZ on TV weekdays Monday through Friday (check syndicated/local listings)

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Health

Are Bathhouses About to Make a Comeback in San Fran After Ban?

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SAN FRANCISCO (Queerty) — The city of San Francisco will consider revoking a 1980s law that banned bathhouses in the city.

In the 1970s, bathhouses acted as magnets for gay men, both to meet other singles and to experience music, dancing and social time. That changed with the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, which prompted major cities like New York and San Francisco to shutter the popular gay bathing spots.

Laws required the removal of private rooms and video booths, as well as to have a “monitor” on-site to make sure nobody engaged in unsafe sexual practices.

Now the City by the Bay will consider removing those regulations entirely. “Our current regulations for adult sex venues were put in […]

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