“The bacterial cells in our body outnumber our own human cells and our microbiome weighs more than our brain, yet we are only just beginning to understand its importance on our health,” study author Christopher J. Stewart, PhD, from the Institute of Cellular Medicine at Newcastle University in the U.K., said in a press release. “More investigation is needed but to find that vaping is less-damaging than smoking on our gut bacteria adds to the incentive to change to e-cigarettes and for people to use them as a tool to quit smoking completely.”
To evaluate whether smoking cigarettes or using e-cigarettes alter the oral and gut microbiome, Stewart and colleagues sequenced fecal, oral and saliva samples from 10 smokers, 10 vapers and 10 controls.
The only differences they observed were in the cigarette smokers, who had significantly different microbial profiles in all sample types vs. controls, and in fecal and oral swab samples vs. e-cigarette users.
Notably, cigarette smokers had a higher relative abundance of Prevotella (P = .006), which the authors noted have been linked to colon cancer and colitis, and reduced levels of the beneficial probiotic species Bacteroides (P = .036), which has been linked to Crohn’s disease and obesity. Shannon diversity was also significantly reduced (P = .009) in cigarette smokers’ fecal samples vs. controls.
Cigarette smoking appears to negatively impact the gut microbiome, while vaping does not.
The investigators concluded that regular use of e-cigarettes does not appear to measurably impact the oral or gut microbiome.
“This research comes as we see a huge increase in the numbers of people using electronic cigarettes and it becomes increasingly important that we understand the effect on the human body,” Stewart said in the press release.
He and colleagues said that further research is needed to confirm these findings given the increasing use of e-cigarettes. – by Adam Leitenberger