Researchers studying e-cigarettes have cast smoke associated with a viral infection into the lungs of people using them for the first time. A team was shocked to find that e-cigarette smoke originating from marijuana smokers were able to win the infection. The study has been published today in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.
In November 2016 a patient gave investigators Anthony Tong M. D. and Paul Kirby M. D. of the University of California San Francisco samples of a marijuana-loaded e-cigarette (MJE) as well as e-cigarette smoke containing marijuana. This dose of MJE was nearly 1000 times higher than that used in regular cigarette smoking research at that time remarks Tong who is a professor of emergency medicine at UC San Francisco and a member of the UCSF Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.
A year later the investigation team had 30 volunteers using an MJE for more than a month at the University of California San Francisco. These volunteers were compared with 10 lung cancer patients 14 HIV patients and 10 non-habitual vapers. The investigators assessed the number of viral and non-viral cell infections in the lungs using an enzyme-based panel in the first phase of the study.
They found that MJE- and e-cigarette-smoke contained high levels of the viral strain HIV. This strain of HIV called 881 in the study was most prevalent in MJE and e-cigarette-smoke explains Tong.
One medical student in the study was HIV positive. By taking a blood serum sample and measuring levels of HIV in the blood researchers suspected the virus could be present in the nicotine-laden smoke. A total of 27 participants were HIV-positive and 32 others were HIV-positive without HIV infection. Blocking entry to smokers by the MJE- and e-cigarette-smoke was shown to be the most successful treatment to control a virus that is more prevalent in MJE and e-cigarette-smoke.
The tobacco industry has been known to use tobacco as a medicine and the MJE is unique in being tobacco product says Tong. We cannot predict how e-cigarette or MJE use will change the tobacco-free lives adds Kirby who is an expert in tobacco product research at the University of Arkansas. We also dont know exactly about the amount of nicotine the MJE contains in its liquid or the amount the MJE users inhale to achieve the same levels of nicotine explains Kirby.
Lung cancer is the most common cause of male cancer in the US. With daily tobacco use increasing and medical institutions increasing their tobacco use it is estimated that 4 to 5 million lung cancer cases are expected to occur each year. More people are getting regular lung cancer says Tong. We think an MJE can help decrease lung cancer. And then the MJE has the potential to help in stopping lung cancer initiation and progression.
E-cigarette use has risen sharply over the past few years with a spike even seen among those who use marijuana. To our surprise MJE did not have the same impact as e-cigarette use as lung cancer in the lungs says Tong. MJE use may hurt lung cancer in the lungs but in a different way. It doesnt activate the ability to activate the cells in the lungs that attack cancer.
The researchers recommend that physicians should monitor the smoking and lung function of smokers and non-smokers as a way to try to counter smoking-induced damage to the lungs. We assess smoking-induced problem by testing for viral load in patients lungs and analyzing immune cells to determine which virus is overactive in the lungs first and which viral cells are in a hypoxic state. If viral load is higher than normal in either these components then the condition can be more accurate diagnosed and treatable notes Tong.
The researchers acknowledge funding from the marijuana proxy council the Medical Marijuana Research Organization and the SVOB Sandvine Institutional Review Board.