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Second-hand smoke increases risk of invasive meningococcal disease in children

The dangers of second-hand smoke (passive smoking) on children continue to become ever more apparent. A new study published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Public Health shows that second hand smoke and foetal exposure due to maternal smoking while pregnant significantly increase the risk of invasive meningococcal disease.

Invasive meningococcal disease, a major cause of bacterial meningitis, can also cause severe illness when bacteria, such as Neisseria meningitidi, invade the blood, lungs or joints. Menigococcal disease is particularly prevalent in children and young adults, and nearly 1 in 20 affected individuals will die despite medical attention. 1 in 6 will be left with a severe disability, including neurological and behavioural disorders.

Several studies suggest that exposure to second hand smoke (passive smoking) may be involved in meningococcal disease. Researchers Dr Rachael Murray and Dr Jo Leonardi-Bee from the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, University of Nottingham performed a systematic review of 18 studies which all looked at the effects of passive smoking on the risk of invasive meningococcal disease in children.

The results showed that being exposed to second-hand smoke at home doubled the risk of invasive meningococcal disease. For children under five this risk was even higher, and for children born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy the risk increased to three times that of children born to non-smoking households

Translating these results Rachael Murray explained, "We estimate that an extra 630 cases of childhood invasive meningococcal disease every year are directly attributable to second hand smoke in the UK alone. While we cannot be sure exactly how tobacco smoke is affecting these children, the findings from this study highlight consistent evidence of the further harms of smoking around children and during pregnancy, and thus parents and family members should be encouraged to not smoke in the home or around children.

Media contact

Dr Hilary Glover
Scientific Press Officer, BioMed Central
Tel: +44 (0) 20 3192 2370
Mob: +44 (0) 778 698 1967

1. Second hand smoke exposure and the risk of invasive meningococcal disease in children: systematic review and meta-analysis Rachael L Murray, John Britton and Jo Leonardi-Bee BMC Public Health (Section: Health behavior, health promotion and society) (in press)


Passive smoking, invasive meningococcal disease and preventive measures: a commentary
Harunor Rashid and Robert Booy
BMC Medicine (in press)
Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.

Article citation and URL available on request on the day of publication.

2. BMC Public Health is an open access, peer-reviewed journal that considers articles on the epidemiology of disease and the understanding of all aspects of public health. The journal has a special focus on the social determinants of health, the environmental, behavioral, and occupational correlates of health and disease, and the impact of health policies, practices and interventions on the community.

3. BMC Medicine is the flagship medical journal of the BMC series, publishing original research, commentaries and reviews that are either of significant interest to all areas of medicine and clinical practice, or provide key translational or clinical advances in a specific field. @BMCMedicine

4. BioMed Central ( is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector. @BioMedCentral

Hilary Glover | EurekAlert!
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