Scientists from the UK are researching why people that are exposed to household air pollution are at an increased risk of getting lung infections like pneumonia and tuberculosis (TB).
The study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology, focused on how immune cells found in the airways respond to the pollution. Samples were taken from healthy volunteers in Malawi, a country where people are exposed to high levels of household air pollution due to the fuels they use to cook, light and heat their homes.
The researchers measured the smoke content in each person’s immune cells, and looked at this alongside the way that they carried out their role of defending the body against germs.
They found that the cells containing higher levels of smoke tended to have a weaker immune response, which could explain why people exposed to pollution are more likely to get lung infections.
Dr Jamie Rylance, one of the lead researchers, highlighted the importance of their study: “Household air pollution is the 3rd most important risk factor for ill-health worldwide. You don’t have to have lung disease to suffer the ill effects of these smoke particles. Our cell based research has shown that household air pollution exposure goes hand in hand with a reduced immune capacity to deal with lung infection. Vulnerable groups such as women and children in low income countries are most likely to be affected.”
The scientists are now carrying out further laboratory research to support this finding.
Learn about the factors that can cause lung disease and the ways to reduce your contact with them.
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