Beneficial Bacteria Returns After Quit Smoking

Beneficial Bacteria Returns After Quit Smoking

Cigarette smoking is the single most preventable cause of premature death in the United States, and more than 400,000 Americans die each year from cigarette smoking. One out of every five deaths annually is either directly or indirectly caused by smoking.


Secondhand cigarette smoke exposure causes approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths in adult nonsmokers in the United States each year. Studies have also linked secondhand smoke with heart disease.

It is never too late to quit smoking. Two years after stopping, your risk of heart attack returns to average and there your lung cancer risk drops by about a third. After 10 years of not smoking, your risk for lung cancer returns to near normal.

Quitting smoking makes a difference right away in the way you feel. You can taste and smell food better. Your breath smells better. Your cough goes away. These benefits happen for men and women of all ages, even those who are older. They happen for healthy people as well as those who already have a disease or condition caused by smoking.

Most recently researchers report another benefit from quitting smoking: beneficial bacteria in the nose and throat soon return to normal levels.

Harmless microbes that reside in the nasal passages and throat help prevent disease-causing bacteria from getting a foothold. Levels of these so-call "interfering bacteria" are reduced in smokers.

The new findings "illustrate for the first time that the high number of pathogens and the low number of interfering organisms found in the nasopharynx of smokers reverse to normal levels after complete cessation of smoking," researchers reported here at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

Swabs from the nose and throat were cultured from 20 smokers before they quit smoking and again 12 to 15 months after they stopped, explained Drs. Alan E. Gober and Itzhak Brook from Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

They initially identified 11 disease-causing microbes from nine subjects, but this was reduced to two pathogens in two subjects about a year after the participants stopped smoking.

The researchers documented 35 instances of bacterial interference against four potential pathogens before smokers quit. This increased to 116 instances of bacterial interference a year after the subjects quit smoking.

These findings provide evidence that smokers who quit lower their risk of respiratory infections, the investigators conclude.

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