E-cigarette Users at Greater Risk of Poor Immune Response to Viruses

UNC School of Medicine, researchers found that vaping electronic cigarettes could impair the body’s normal immune response to viral infections.
University of North Carolina School of Medicine

Newswise — CHAPEL HILL, NC – In a controlled study of smokers, nonsmokers, and e-cigarette users, University of North Carolina School of Medicine researchers found that e-cigarette users exhibited significantly altered immune responses to a model of influenza virus infection, suggesting increased susceptibility to disease, including COVID-19.

The findings, published in the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology, show that vaping changes the expression of genes and production of proteins in respiratory cells, as well as altering virus-specific antibody production.

“In many of the study participants, we observed more changes to the immune response in e-cigarette users than we did in smokers,” said first author Meghan Rebuli, PhD, assistant professor in the UNC Department of Pediatrics and member of the UNC Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma, and Lung Biology. “All of these factors have the potential to adversely affect response to a virus and immunity post-infection. While we used influenza as a model, this suggests that e-cigarette users are likely more susceptible to respiratory viruses than are non-smokers, and this likely includes SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).”

The main reason to avoid smoking is the risk of cancer, heart disease, emphysema, stroke, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, and other lung diseases. For these reasons, researchers also have been studying the potential effects of electronic cigarettes, which are composed of thousands of chemicals many of which are FDA-approved for ingestion, but not inhalation.

But for many years, inhalation of tobacco smoke has also been linked to increased risk of viral infection, such as influenza. Inhalation of e-cigarette aerosols has also been linked to immune suppression within the respiratory tract, specifically the protective mucosal layer lining the inside the nasal cavity.

 Rebuli, senior author Ilona Jaspers, PhD, and colleagues, thought that changes in the nasal mucosal immune response could modify antiviral host defense responses in e-cigarette users. This is important because viruses, including the flu and SARS-CoV-2, have been shown to infect nasal cavities where they can replicate in cells, spread throughout the respiratory system, and be transmitted to other people. Jaspers, the director of the UNC Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma, and Lung Biology, has led previous experiments showing that vaping altered hundreds of genes in epithelial cells involved in the body’s natural immune defense. For the current study, the researchers wanted to study what happens when e-cigarette users are exposed to a respiratory virus.

 For the study, non-smokers, cigarette smokers, and e-cigarette users, age 18-40, were inoculated with live attenuated influenza virus (LAIV) vaccine – a well-established model of influenza infection in the Jaspers lab– to safely examine innate immune response. Pre- and post-inoculation, the researchers collected nasal epithelial lining fluid, nasal lavage fluid, nasal scrape biopsies, urine, and blood. The scientists examined cytokines and chemokines, influenza-specific Immunoglobulin A (IgA), immune gene expression, and markers of viral load.

 The researchers found that though the amount of markers of viral load did not differ among the three groups, expected increases in nasal epithelial lining fluid anti-LAIV IgA – which is a potential indicator of developed immunity post-infection – did not occur in e-cigarette users and cigarette smokers. Further, LAIV-induced gene expression changes in nasal biopsies differed in cigarette smokers and e-cigarette users as compared to non-smokers, with a greater number of genes changed in e-cigarette users, mostly resulting in decreased expression of immune genes critical for defense against viruses and generation of immune memory.

 “This is not good,” Jaspers said. “We want to see IgA levels increase during infection. It’s the body’s natural way to defend against an invader. Here we saw that both smoking and e-cigarette use hampers IgA levels. The suppressed expression of important immune genes is also concerning and in line with an overall suppression of appropriate immune responses.”

 Moreover, altered immune response in e-cigarette users and cigarette smokers could make vaccines less effective in these groups.

 “We don’t know for sure if people who vape are more susceptible to COVID-19, or if vaccines would be less effective for them,” Rebuli said. “But we know we never want to see suppression of genes, proteins, and antibodies involved in our immune response. And this is what we see in our data related to smoking and e-cigarette use.”

Other authors are Ellen Glista-Baker, PhD, Jessica R. Hoffman, Parker F. Duffney, PhD, Carole Robinette, MS, Adam M. Speen, PhD, Erica A. Pawlak, PhD, Radhika Dhingra, PhD, and Terry L. Noah, MD, all at UNC-Chapel Hill. Jaspers directs the UNC Curriculum in Toxicology & Environmental Medicine, and Rebuli is an assistant professor in the curriculum.

The National Institutes of Health, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and a Leon and Bertha Golberg Postdoctoral Fellowship funded this research.


Filters close

Showing results

110 of 4147
Newswise: COVID-19 Peer Hub combats vaccine avoidance amid pandemic
Released: 27-Nov-2020 8:05 AM EST
COVID-19 Peer Hub combats vaccine avoidance amid pandemic
University of South Australia

UniSA researchers are evaluating a new vaccination education initiative – the COVID-19 Peer Hub – to help immunisation and public health professionals to tackle the emerging dangers of vaccine hesitancy amid the pandemic.

Newswise: Long-Term Impacts of COVID-19: Your Mental Health
Released: 25-Nov-2020 2:15 PM EST
Long-Term Impacts of COVID-19: Your Mental Health

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaped more than half a year of our lives, canceling plans, upending livelihoods and causing feelings of grief, stress and anxiety. And Cedars-Sinai mental health experts say the pandemic could be shaping our mental health well into the future.

Released: 25-Nov-2020 12:45 PM EST
SARS-CoV-2 mutations do not appear to increase transmissibility
University College London

None of the mutations currently documented in the SARS-CoV-2 virus appear to increase its transmissibility in humans, according to a study led by UCL researchers.

Newswise: COVID-19 vaccine candidate tested preclinically at UAB nears first clinical test in people
Released: 25-Nov-2020 11:05 AM EST
COVID-19 vaccine candidate tested preclinically at UAB nears first clinical test in people
University of Alabama at Birmingham

Maryland-based Altimmune Inc., a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company, has submitted an Investigational New Drug, or IND, application to the United States Food and Drug Administration to commence a Phase 1 clinical study of its single-dose intranasal COVID-19 vaccine candidate, AdCOVID.

Released: 25-Nov-2020 11:05 AM EST
BIDMC researchers reveal how genetic variations are linked to COVID-19 disease severity
Beth Israel Lahey Health

New research BIDMC-led sheds light on the genetic risk factors that make individuals more or less susceptible to severe COVID-19.

Newswise: blog-pandemic-scenario-planning-lg-feature2.jpg
Released: 25-Nov-2020 11:05 AM EST
Pandemic Ups Game on Scenario Planning in The Arts
Wallace Foundation

Researcher/Author of new toolkit and report seeks to help arts and culture organizations add scenario planning to their strategic toolbox

Released: 25-Nov-2020 10:30 AM EST
Young people's anxiety levels doubled during first COVID-19 lockdown, says study
University of Bristol

The number of young people with anxiety doubled from 13 per cent to 24 per cent, during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown 1, according to new research from the University of Bristol.

Newswise: 249837_web.jpg
Released: 25-Nov-2020 10:20 AM EST
Tracking COVID-19 trends in hard-hit states
Louisiana State University

Currently, there are over 10 million confirmed cases and more than 240,000 casualties attributed to COVID-19 in the U.S.

Released: 25-Nov-2020 9:55 AM EST
More Health Systems Join National #MaskUp Campaign
Cleveland Clinic

Many more health systems are joining the national #MaskUp campaign encouraging Americans to stop the spread of COVID-19 by following safety guidelines. Over just a few days, another 19 health systems with hundreds of hospitals united with 100 health systems nationwide with hospitals numbering in the thousands. The public service campaign is critical to the health and well-being of all Americans. It is a plea from healthcare professionals everywhere: wear a mask and follow other precautions to save lives and help get our country back on its feet.

Newswise: delaterre_jpeg.jpg
Released: 25-Nov-2020 7:35 AM EST
Warwick scientists design model to predict cellular drug targets against Covid-19
University of Warwick

The covid-19 virus, like all viruses relies on their host for reproduction

Showing results

110 of 4147