Passive smoking, invasive meningococcal disease and preventive measures: a commentary
1 National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance of Vaccine Preventable Diseases, The Children's Hospital at Westmead and The University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
2 Sydney Emerging Infections and Biosecurity Institute, The University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
BMC Medicine 2012, 10:160 doi:10.1186/1741-7015-10-160Published: 10 December 2012
Active smoking is a recognized risk factor of various infectious diseases. In a systematic review published in BMC Public Health, Murray et al. demonstrated that exposure to passive smoking significantly increased the risk of meningococcal disease among children. Their review especially highlights that the risk remains high even if the exposure occurs during pregnancy or after birth, although the authors could not disentangle the independent effects of smoking during pregnancy from those in the postnatal period. How passive smoking increases the risk of childhood meningococcal disease is not precisely known. Both exposure to 'smoke', or 'smokers' (who are highly susceptible to pharyngeal carriage of meningococci) are postulated mechanisms, but unfortunately very few studies have examined the risk of exposure by considering these two variables separately, and this therefore remains a research priority. Quitting may well be the mainstay of preventing tobacco-related hazards but the available global data suggest that most smokers are reluctant to quit. Among other interventions, immunizing children with a meningococcal conjugate vaccine could, theoretically, reduce the risk of meningococcal disease among children and their smoker household contacts through herd immunity.