Study Finds Children of Smokers Carry Higher Amounts of Strept Bacteria

The list of health risks associated with smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke is constantly growing. A new study simply adds one more thing to worry about to that list

According to research published in the April 1 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, more children exposed to tobacco smoke carry Streptococcus pneumoniae than children who are not exposed to second-hand smoke.

Since children are already more likely to carry S. pneumoniae (also called pneumococci), in the nose and throat, additional levels of the bacterium are hardly welcome since they can cause minor illnesses such as ear infections or more serious conditions like sinusitis, pneumonia and meningitis when the bacteria grow out of control.

The Israeli study of more than 200 young children and their mothers found that 76% of the children exposed to tobacco smoke carried pneumococci, compared to 60% percent of those not exposed.

Exposed children were also more likely than non-exposed children to carry bacteria responsible for most of the invasive S. pneumoniae disease.

Differences were also found among the mothers with 32% percent of those who smoked carrying S. pneumoniae. Only 15% of mothers exposed to smoking carried it and 12% of mothers without exposure carrying.

Higher carriage rates of bacteria can lead to higher rates of infection, since carriage in the nose is the first step in causing disease. Thus, an increased rate of carriage suggests more frequent occurrence of disease and, indeed, active and passive smoking are already associated with increased rate of respiratory infectious diseases.

(Source:, Medical News Today 3/14/06)

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