Nature: Long-term effects of smoking on the immune system

February 22, 2024  22:12

Smoking tobacco is so harmful to the body that it alters a person's immune system, making it vulnerable to new diseases and infections even years after a person has quit smoking, a new study has found, writes Nature.

The research shows how smoking reduces the body's ability to fight infection both in the moment and over time, and can put a person at risk of developing chronic inflammation-related diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

"Quit smoking as soon as possible," warned study co-author Dr. Violaine Saint-André, a computational biologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris.

The researchers studied blood samples from a group of 1,000 healthy people aged between 20 and 69. The group was equally divided into men and women. The scientists wanted to see how 136 variables, including lifestyle, socioeconomic issues and dietary habits, in addition to age, gender and genetics, affected the immune response. They exposed blood samples to common microbes, such as E. coli bacteria and the flu virus, and measured the immune response.

Smoking, body mass index and latent infection caused by the herpes virus had the biggest impact, with smoking causing the biggest changes. This had almost as much effect on the immune response as important factors such as age or gender.

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