Food Science and Technology Department


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Stewart et al. (2018), Effects of tobacco smoke and electronic cigarette vapor exposure on the oral and gut microbiota in humans: a pilot study. PeerJ 6:e4693; DOI 10.7717/peerj.4693


2018 Stewart et al.


Background: The use of electronic cigarettes (ECs) has increased drastically over the past five years, primarily as an alternative to smoking tobacco cigarettes. However, the adverse effects of acute and long-term use of ECs on the microbiota have not been explored. In this pilot study, we sought to determine if ECs or tobacco smoking are associated with differences in the oral and gut microbiota, in comparison to non-smoking controls.

Methods: We examined a human cohort consisting of 30 individuals: 10 EC users, 10 tobacco smokers, and 10 controls. We collected cross-sectional fecal, buccal swabs, and saliva samples from each participant. All samples underwent V4 16S rRNA gene sequencing.

Results: Tobacco smokers had significantly different bacterial profiles in all sample types when compared to controls, and in feces and buccal swabs when compared to EC users. The most significant associations were found in the gut, with a higher relative abundance of Prevotella (P = 0.006) and lowered Bacteroides (P = 0.036) in tobacco smokers. The Shannon diversity was also significantly reduced (P = 0.009) in fecal samples collected from tobacco smokers compared to controls. No significant difference was found in the alpha diversity, beta-diversity or taxonomic relative abundances between EC users and controls.

Discussion: The current pilot data demonstrate that tobacco smoking is associated with signicant differences in the oral and gut microbiome in humans. However, validation in larger cohorts and greater understanding of the short and long-term impact of EC use on microbiota composition and function is warranted.

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