Study explains why people who smoke are at a higher risk of TB
A team of international researchers has provided an insight into how smoking can increase a person’s risk of getting tuberculosis (TB), as well as make the infection worse.
Exposure to smoke from cigarettes and burning coal or wood is the biggest risk factor for TB. This study, published in the journal, Cell, aimed to find a reason for this.
The scientists looked at the immune system response to TB infection in zebrafish, and then in humans. They found that smoke particles can clog up key immune cells in the body called macrophages.
Macrophages, a type of white blood cell, are responsible for destroying bacteria that come into the body. However, when the smoke enters the cells, they become heavier and are less effective when it comes to fighting the infection.
In addition, the researchers noted that, when these swollen and infected macrophages are unable to move, they can burst, which allows the TB bacteria to grow and spread – worsening infections.
This increased risk was found to be lower in ex-smokers. The scientists therefore recommend that people should be offered support to give up smoking to reduce their chances of developing TB.