Tobacco & Nicotine Products
Stayin’ Alive: Culturable Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas, and Enterococcus are likely present in tobacco products
(School of Public Health (UMD) MIAEH Undergraduate Student)
Objective: People use tobacco in many different forms, including cigarettes, hookah, and little cigars. Previous research from our lab revealed that a diverse and complex bacterial community exists within these products and can vary by brand and product type. However, due to limitations of DNA-based 16S rRNA gene sequencing, it is unknown whether these bacterial species are alive. Therefore, the aim of this study was to explore viability of Pseudomonas, Enterococcus, and Staphylococcus genera in commercial brands of cigarettes, hookah, and little cigars. Approach: In total, 6 cigarette products, 4 little cigar products, and 6 hookah products were tested, with 2-3 lots per product for replication. Small amounts of each lot were enriched in broths that allowed each respective genus to grow for 24-48 hours, and aliquots of the broths were spread plated onto media that was selective and differential for each respective genus. Plates were incubated for 24-72 hours and observed for growth. If colonies were observed, their color and morphology was recorded, and the colony was saved for later analysis. Otherwise, the plates were isolation streaked for individual colonies, which were saved. Findings: The products yielded bacterial growth. Overall, 2% of experimental Enterococcus plates were presumed positive, 94% of experimental Pseudomonas plates were presumed positive, and 85% of Staphylococcus plates were presumed positive. Collectively, 97% of hookah plates were presumed positive for Staph, Pseudo, and Entero growth, 52% of cigarette plates, and 41% of little cigar plates. Conclusions: This indicates cigarettes and little cigars have relatively similar levels of the bacteria we tested for, but hookah has greater levels. There were more hookah plates positive for Staphylococcus growth than either other product (45% of positive Staph plates), more cigarette plates positive for Pseudomonas (39% of positive Pseudo plates), and the only plate positive for Enterococcus was a little cigar plate. Presumed positive identifications will be analyzed by PCR with selective primers. Public Health Significance: These data provide preliminary evidence that potential human health pathogens are present and viable in a spectrum of tobacco products. The implications of exposure to these pathogens can help recommend and regulate use of tobacco products to maximize public health.