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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Smoking and sinusitis

Smoking is one of the most important causes of head and neck cancer.
Another important untoward result of active and second hand smoke exposure is the increased risk of respiratory bacterial infection. These include sinusitis, ear infections, bronchitis and pneumonia. Recent studies we and others did show that smokers harbor more pathogenic bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, can be a source of spread of these bacteria to others (including their household members), and when smokers get respiratory infections treating them may be more difficult than treating non-smokers. These changes are reversible once smokers stop smoking.

A recent study of smokers with sinusitis we have just completed shows that sinusitis in smokers is often caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria including methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Since many head and neck cancer survivors are engaged in educating young individuals about the risks of smoking this information may be useful to them in encouraging them to stop smoking.


  1. I would be interested to know the mechanism(s) by which smoking results in slower recovery from infections.
    Generally lowered imunoresponse?
    Specifically lowered imunoresponse?
    Physical obstruction of bronchi and synuses by tar?
    Cell damage?
    Paralized Cillia?

  2. There are multiple mechanisms that account for the increased rate of respiratory infections in smokers. Tobacco smoke compromises the anti-bacterial function of leukocytes, including neutrophils, monocytes, T cells and B cells, providing a mechanistic explanation for increased infection risk.

    Also exposure to smoking increases the colonization by respiratory pathogens and subsequently the occurrence of upper respiratory tract infections. This is believed to be due to the fact that the mouth of smokers contains fewer organisms with interfering activity against bacterial pathogens. The high number of pathogens and the low number of interfering organisms found in the nasopharynx of smokers reverts to normal levels after complete cessation of smoking.

  3. Thank you very much indeed. All the more reason to give up smoking.