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May 19, 2014 02:45 AM EDT

E-cigarettes Make Supebugs More Deadly: Study

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E-cigarettes, deemed as a safer and healthy alternative to smoking, have been found to be as dangerous as the traditional cigarettes.

According to a study conducted by the University of California, San Diego, nicotine-laden vapor from e-cigarettes makes the untreatable MRSA superbug more poisonous and weakens body's ability to fight the multi-antibiotic resistant bug.

 "As healthcare professionals, we are always being asked by patients, "Would this be better for me?" In the case of smoking e-cigarettes, I hated not having an answer. While the answer is not black and white, our study suggests a response: even if e-cigarettes may not be as bad as tobacco, they still have measurable detrimental effects on health," Researcher Laura Crotty Alexander said in a press release.

E-cigarettes that are free from tobacco, tar and other chemicals (commonly found in real cigarettes), however, do contain nicotine - which makes them more appealing and popular among those trying to quit but miss the rush of the drug and the routine of lighting up.

According to a 2013 study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, e-cigarette-use among American middle and high school students doubled during 2011- 2012.

Medical professionals have warned of the dangers of e-cigarette smoking. The pipe might still contain carcinogenic chemicals and young users run the risk of shifting to traditional cigarettes.

For the study, the researchers determined the effects of e-cigarette vapor when exposed to MRSA superbug. The tests were conducted on bugs in a dish.

Researchers found that e-cigarettes strengthened the bacteria. It is believed that bugs perceived danger when exposed to the vapor. They immediately boosted their defence mechanisms, making it more difficult to destroy them with antibiotics.

 "The virulence of MRSA is increased by e-cigarette vapor. Electronic cigarette vapor induces MRSA to produce acids as a defense mechanism within the first 3 hours of exposure, which raises similarities to their mechanism against nitric oxide - one of the components of innate immune responses to infection," the researchers concluded.

However, the researchers said that the vapor did not make the bacteria as violent as compared to traditional cigarette smoke. In a parallel study, conventional cigarettes were found to boost resistance to MRSA more than the electronic versions.

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