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Smoking increases risk of developing active tuberculosis

Smoking doubles your risk of catching active tuberculosis You're twice as likely to fall ill, research finds

It is well known that smoking kills you slowly, but new research has found that it can also kill you quickly, by doubling your chances of catching active tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis is an infection caused by a germ, spread through the air, that usually affects the lungs. About one in ten of those infected with the germ gets active tuberculosis. If left untreated, active tuberculosis kills more than half of those infected.

A new study on the incidence of tuberculosis in Taiwan compared the likelihood of developing active tuberculosis among former and current smokers and non-smokers. It found that those who had smoked in the past had 2.69 times the risk of developing active tuberculosis compared to those that had never smoked, while current smokers had 2.73 times the risk.

"In this prospective cohort study we found a two-fold increase in the risk of active TB in current smokers compared with never-smokers," said the lead author, Hsien-Ho Lin, research fellow at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

The study also found that younger smokers were more likely than smokers older than 65 to develop active tuberculosis when compared to those who had never smoked.

"To our knowledge this is the first cohort study from a general population that provides evidence on the positive association between tobacco smoking and active TB. Based on results from ours and other studies, policy makers and public health personnel should consider addressing tobacco cessation as part of tuberculosis control. From the perspective of prevention, the target of smoking cessation should aim beyond TB patients to reach high-risk populations who are most likely to benefit from cessation," said Dr. Lin.

The results are reported in the September 1st issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

This article was published on Mon 24 August 2009

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