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[This article belongs to Volume - 55, Issue - 12]

Abstract :

The microbiological composition of tobacco products was studied using culture and chemical analysis (of tobacco leaves) or chemical analysis only (tobacco and tobacco smoke). The chemical analyses utilized gas chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry for determining 3-hydroxy fatty acids, muramic acid, and ergosterol as markers of respectively lipopolysaccharide (LPS), peptidoglycan, and fungal biomass. Mesophilic bacteria dominated in both fresh and cured tobacco leaves; a range of additional bacteria and fungi were also found albeit in minor amounts. The peptidoglycan and LPS concentrations were approximately the same in tobacco leaves as in cigarette tobacco. The concentrations of the measured microbial components were much lower in some cigarettes locally produced in China, Korea, and Vietnam than in cigarettes of international brands purchased in the same countries, and the concentrations in the smoke were in general agreement with the concentrations in cigarette tobacco. No differences in microbial load in tobacco of "light" and "full flavor" cigarettes were seen. Storing cigarettes at high humidity resulted in elevated levels of fungi in the cigarette tobacco leading to increased ergosterol concentrations in the smoke. The fact that tobacco smoke is a bioaerosol may help to explain the high prevalence of respiratory disorders among smokers and non-smokers exposed to second hand smoke since the same symptoms are also commonly associated with exposure to bioaerosols.