Smoking Doubles Recurrent Tuberculosis Risk

Smoking tobacco doubles a patient's risk of developing recurrent tuberculosis (TB), according to a study published in the April issue of the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease.

Smoking tobacco doubles a patient’s risk of developing recurrent tuberculosis (TB), according to a study published in the April 2014 issue of the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease.

For the study, researchers from the National Yang-Ming University sampled 5,567 Taiwanese adults with a mean age of 58.5 years and bacteriologically confirmed TB. Of those patients, 1.5% developed TB after being successfully treated for the infectious disease in the past. Regular tobacco smokers, who were defined as individuals who smoked more than 10 cigarettes per day, were twice as likely to develop recurrent TB compared to former smokers and individuals who had never smoked.

“Unless we adapt our TB control strategies to respond to newly ascertained risks — such as smoking tobacco, the global rise in diabetes, and the overcrowding we see in cities as the world urbanizes — we will always remain 2 steps behind the bacteria,” Luis Castro, Interim Executive Director of The International Union Against TB and Lung Disease, said in a statement.

The researchers noted that other independent risk factors associated with TB recurrence included homelessness, presence of comorbidities, and a positive acid-fast bacilli smear. Current TB treatment options require a patient to take several drugs for a minimum of 6 months, but among some especially drug-resistant cases, that period can last up to 2 years or more.

“No one should undergo the long, complex treatment for TB only to unknowingly place themselves at heightened risk of getting the disease again,” the authors wrote. “With this research, we can inform national tobacco control policies and educate patients about the risks that smoking tobacco poses.”

The authors also recommended introducing effective smoking cessation measures in TB control programs that align with the World Health Organization (WHO) Stop TB Strategy.