Smokers' babies meningitis risk
EDINBURGH - Parents who smoke are making their babies more vulnerable to the deadly meningitis bacteria, British researchers believe.
A study by a team of scientists at Edinburgh University shows babies whose parents smoke are more likely to harbour the bacteria, meaning they carry a higher risk of contracting meningitis.
Cigarette smoke helps the bacteria adhere to the tissues lining the throat, and the more smoke a baby comes into contact with, the more bacteria he or she will have.
Dr Caroline Blackwell, one of the team from the university's department of medical microbiology, said the discovery also had implications for research into cot death and chest infections among babies.
The scientists studied more than 250 babies in Greece and found those who had the meningococcal bacteria all had mothers who smoked.
Passive smokers suffered the same effects on the tissue in their throats and nasal passages.
The study was carried out in Greece because equal numbers of women across the social spectrum smoke, whereas in Britain smoking is higher among people from poorer backgrounds.
Meningitis is also more common among poorer people in Britain and Dr Blackwell said her research showed the link between smoking and meningitis could help to explain that.
The research also showed that children whose parents smoke are more likely to harbour the bacteria which cause cot death and childhood chest infections and are thus more likely to suffer colds and flu, which can trigger meningitis.
Dr Blackwell said smokers' babies suffered a double risk from the deadly bug.