An infection that often goes undetected can block the lung’s natural protective response against tobacco smoke, according to researchers at National Jewish Health. The findings, recently published online and scheduled to appear in the October issue of Infection and Immunity, suggest one mechanism that may cause smokers to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Previous work in Dr. Day’s lab had suggested that lung infections might affect the lung’s protective response. And work in Dr. Richard Martin’s lab at National Jewish has implicated the organism Mycoplasma pneumoniae (Mp) in worsening asthma. Mp is a common lung pathogen and the most common cause of pneumonia, but can be difficult to detect because it is challenging to grow in culture. Recent tests to detect Mp DNA in the lungs have indicated that it may be more prevalent than generally recognized and can exist as a low-level chronic infection.
When Dr. Day and his colleagues infected mice with Mp it had a mild effect, slightly lowering glutathione levels in the lungs of mice breathing fresh air. When mice were exposed to tobacco smoke then infected with Mp, glutathione levels dropped even lower.
“The Mycoplasma infection completely blocked the protective response mice normally mount against tobacco smoke, reducing antioxidant levels well below even those of mice breathing fresh air,” said Dr. Day.
Release date: August 19, 2008
Source: National Jewish Medical and Research Center