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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Bacterial Species Diversity in Cigarettes Linked to An Investigation of Severe Pneumonitis in U.S. Military Personnel Deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom

item Rooney, Alejandro
item Swezey, James
item Wicklow, Donald
item Mcatee, Matthew - US ARMY; ABERDEEN, MD

Submitted to: Current Microbiology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: February 1, 2005
Publication Date: July 1, 2005
Citation: Rooney, A.P., Swezey, J.L., Wicklow, D.T., Mcatee, M.J. 2005. Bacterial species diversity in cigarettes linked to an investigation of severe pneumonitis in U.S. military personnel deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Current Microbiology. 51:46-52.

Interpretive Summary: This manuscript describes work on the isolation and identification of bacteria present in the tobacco of cigarettes available to U.S. servicemen who contracted acute eosinophilic pneumonia while deployed in Southwest Asia during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Comparisons between U.S. versus European and Middle Eastern cigarette brands revealed a higher bacterial load present in the tobacco of the latter versus the former. In addition, several new species of gram positive bacteria were identified and characterized from the tobacco, including certain species known to be pathogenic or to cause pulmonary hypersensitivity in humans. This research provides important information for researchers interested in bacterial diversity present in tobacco.

Technical Abstract: This paper presents results from a study on the bacterial diversity of cigarette brands collected from military personnel during the U.S. Army’s investigation of a series of cases of acute eosinophilic pneumonitis in military personnel deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Eight species of Bacillus, including five new species, and one new species of Kurthia were isolated from the cigarettes. Some of these species have been identified elsewhere as causes of hypersensitivity pneumonitis and other respiratory syndromes. All of the isolates were facultative anaerobes, and many displayed mucoid growth under anaerobic conditions. In addition, many isolates also displayed the ability to form surface biofilms under liquid culture. Although biofilm formation and mucoid growth were not correlated, the former was found to be much more pronounced under anaerobic conditions as opposed to aerobic ones. The implications of these findings are discussed.

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