A Link Between Smoking and Bacteria

Secondhand smoke increases meningococcal disease risk in children

(RxWiki News) The dangers of secondhand smoke for children can often show up in unexpected ways. Even some bacterial illnesses can pose a higher risk to children if they're around secondhand smoke.

A recent study looked at the research linking secondhand smoke and meningococcal disease.

They found that children are twice as likely to develop meningococcal disease if they are in a home with secondhand tobacco smoke.

Mothers who smoke during pregnancy or afterward increase the risk even a little bit more for children.

"Don't smoke around children."

The study, led by Rachael L. Murray, from the Division of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Nottingham in England, looked at possible links between secondhand smoke exposure and development of meningococcal disease.

The researchers conducted searches through four different medical study databases to find all research papers through June 2012 that looked at both secondhand smoke and meningococcal disease.

Meningococcal disease refers to any kind of disease that develops from bacteria called Neisseria meningitides.

The most common form of the disease is bacterial meningitis, which infects the brain and spinal cord, but it can also lead to infections in the bloodstream.

The researchers found 18 total studies which they analyzed. They found that, using data from across the studies, children in homes with secondhand smoke were twice as likely to develop meningococcal disease than children not exposed to secondhand smoke.

The researchers found some evidence that showed more exposure to secondhand smoke translated to a higher risk for meningococcal disease.

Children under 5 years old were those most affected by secondhand smoke in terms of their risk of meningococcal disease.

Also, mothers who smoked while pregnant were three times more likely to see their children develop meningococcal disease. If mothers smoked in the home after their child was born, the children were a little more than twice as likely to develop meningococcal disease.

"We estimate that an extra 630 cases of childhood invasive meningococcal disease every year are directly attributable to second hand smoke in the UK alone," said Murray in a release about the study.

"While we cannot be sure exactly how tobacco smoke is affecting these children, the findings from this study highlight consistent evidence of the further harms of smoking around children and during pregnancy, and thus parents and family members should be encouraged to not smoke in the home or around children," she said.

The study was published in December in the journal BMC Public Health. The research was funded by the University of Nottingham, Cancer Research UK and from funding to the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies from the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Economic and Social Research Council, Medical Research Council and the Department of Health in the UK. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
December 26, 2012