Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes puts you at less risk from MRSA

After Laura E. Crotty Alexander and her team released a study on how e-cigarette vapour affects MRSA (http://goo.gl/cmQT) on the 18th of May (http://goo.gl/8vsw9Z) the media has been throwing headlines at us that makes it look like e-cigarettes will cause these bacteria to mutate and take over the world. Not very surprising looking at how Crotty Alexander presents her research herself:
Vapour from e-cigarettes makes MRSA bacteria more aggressive
Doesn't look good now does it? The media of course, eager to attract readers by reporting another scandal, makes this even worse. Just have a look at this headline from the Daily Mail:
Are e-cigarette smokers at risk from superbugs? Vapour helps deadly bacteria to thrive, say scientists
First of all there is no such thing as an "e-cigarette smoker". It's just no smoke involved, so stop it! To make it even worse, they add this in the sub-header:
"However new study shows users are more at risk from superbugs"
Looks like we're dead then. Keep vaping and you'll get eaten alive by MRSA, right? NO! Cause there is something missing from the statement in that sub-header. They should have added this: "compared to non-smokers." Because this is what the scientists actually found: E-cigarette vapour makes the bacteria more aggressive, and the human defence system less effective, but smoking cigarettes will have the same effect... only 10 times stronger. So a more reasonable headline would have been something like this:
Are e-cigarettes the solution to fighting MRSA in smokers? Smoke makes bacteria 10 times more aggressive than vapour, say scientists.
You see it all comes down to what perspective you view the data from, and which parts you choose to promote. If you're against e-cigarettes, and like the nicotine gum and patches better, it's pretty obvious that you can present this data to make e-cigarettes look bad. It's all about which findings you focus on and which ones you tone down. The fact that cigarettes are far worse in this matter is just mentioned at the end of the Daily Mail article: "However, the study also failed to give real cigarettes a clean bill of health. In fact, they were found to fuel MRSA even more than the electronic versions." They even fail to mention the magnitude of the whole thing.

Another thing they fail to mention, and that Crotty Alexander just barely mentions herself, is this: "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." This would mean that not only cigarettes and e-cigarettes would make MRSA worse, but also nicotine patches and gum... and even tomatoes and eggplant might have an effect. Why don't Crotty Alexander give her lab-mice some nicotine gum instead of letting them breath in e-cigarette vapour if she suspects nicotine is the problem?

The fact that Crotty Alexander, despite the results she has published here, still won't recommend e-cigarettes for her asthma-patients is beyond me. It really makes me wonder if the disclosure statement printed below her author info on http://theconversation.com is even remotely true. We've seen studies lately (http://goo.gl/lEbFpZ) kicking the gateway argument out the window and that makes the really important truth discovered in her research this:  
Switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes puts you at less risk from MRSA.

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photo credit: NIAID via photopin cc

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