Vapour from e-cigarettes makes MRSA bacteria more aggressive

Antibiotic resistant bacteria are a growing problem worldwide. MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is one of the most common, causing thousands of deaths every year. The nasal passages are the most common site for these bacteria to live. Cigarette smoke would puts stress on bacterial cells, just as it does on human cells, and the bacteria respond by protecting and arming themselves.

Cigarette smoke increases the resistance of MRSA to being killed by a host’s immune cells. In particular, cigarette smoke induced resistance to antimicrobial peptides – substances produced by human cells, which kill bacteria like antibiotics do.

We have found over the past few months that both regular cigarette smoke and e-cigarette vapour make drug-resistant bacteria more virulent. We have not yet pinpointed the components of e-cigarette vapour that trigger these effects, but preliminary findings suggest that the nicotine in e-juice (the liquid used in e-cigarettes that is vapourised and inhaled) is a significant contributor.

E-cigarette vapour may play a bigger role in the effect we see on MRSA. E-cigarette users take in two to 20 times the amount of vapour in volume, and thus nicotine, than normal smoke. Read more: e-cigarettes makes MRSA bacteria more aggressive.