Oral microbiome of vapers indicates heightened risk for disease
Vaping may significantly change a person’s oral microbiome after just a few months, potentially increasing the risk for cancer and other diseases, according to research published in Science Advances.
Purnima S. Kumar DDS, PhD, professor in the College of Dentistry at The Ohio State University, told Healio Primary Care that the study showed that “vaping creates a high-at-risk molecular milieu that significantly increases the risk for known diseases like oral cancer and periodontitis (gum disease), but also might be setting the stage for diseases that we have not yet commonly seen in the oral cavity.”
She explained that 55% of patients older than 40 years are affected by periodontitis, which “has been consistently associated with several potentially life-threatening diseases including coronary heart disease, diabetes and cerebrovascular accidents.”
To evaluate the effects of e-cigarette use on the oral microbiome, Kumar and colleagues collected plaque samples from below the gums of 123 participants. Of the participants, 25 were smokers, 25 were nonsmokers, 20 were e-cigarette users, 25 were former smokers who use e-cigarettes and 28 people used both cigarettes and e-cigarettes.
The researchers conducted DNA sequencing of the samples to determine the types of microbes present and their function.
Kumar and colleagues determined that the oral microbiome of those who used e-cigarettes had greater abundances of genes that regulate stress response in human metagenome, brisk proinflammatory response, and robust correlations between cytokines and putative virulence factors, which indicate that e-cigarettes stress users’ subgingival environment. The researchers noted that the oral microbiome of e-cigarette users resembles that of patients with periodontitis.
Notably, the researchers found that in smokers who used e-cigarettes, the microbiome more closely resembled that of those who used e-cigarettes than those who only used cigarettes, although smokers included in the study had been smoking for at least 5 years but only vaped for an average of 7 months.
Therefore, the researchers explained that their data suggest the risk for harm associated with e-cigarettes may not be lesser than that of cigarettes, despite e-cigarettes being promoted as less a less harmful alternative to cigarettes.
To validate the findings, the researchers exposed artificial saliva to cigarette smoke and e-cigarette vapor and found the damaging effects of e-cigarette use on the oral microbiome were present with and without nicotine.
“The oral microbiome — which acts like a sentinel, or a canary in a coal mine — is far more quickly and powerfully influenced by e-cigarettes than by cigarettes,” Kumar said. “While e-cigarettes might help to quit the smoking habit, they do not necessarily help a quitter to journey toward health.” – by Erin Michael
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.