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The effect of combustible cigarettes and electronic cigarettes on oral Candida pathogenesis

Institution: University of California, Los Angeles
Investigator(s): Farnoosh Haghighi,
Award Cycle: 2019 (Cycle 30) Grant #: T30FT0812 Award: $187,116
Subject Area: Oral Disease and Dental Health
Award Type: Postdoctoral Fellowship Awards

Initial Award Abstract
Smoking is a very well-known overall health hazard with a significant impact on oral health as well. This is aggravated in the socio-economically disadvantaged populations, veterans and the elderly who often have less access to oral care. One of the prevalent smoking-related diseases is oral candidiasis (OC), a fungal infection that is caused by Candida albicans (Ca), a fungus commonly found in our saliva. In OC, Ca enters the oral mucosal tissues and causes disease. OC most prevalently affects the oral mucosal tissues of denture wearers with more than half suffering from the disease. The above-mentioned vulnerable populations are disproportionally affected. Electronic cigarettes (ECs) have become a popular alternative to cigarette smoking in the United States. While often perceived as healthier, little is known regarding their effect on oral tissues in comparison to combustible cigarettes (Cs). Previous studies have shown that nicotine enhances the disease-associated form of Ca. However, studies comparing the effect of Cs and ECs on oral cells and pathogenicity of Ca are largely lacking. To address this issue, we hypothesize that Cs and ECs can lead to a drastic change in Ca pathogenicity thereby advancing OC. As the behavior of Ca changes in the presence of Cs and ECs the treatment with antifungal drugs may also change. Since the popularity of ECs continues to grow, likely surpassing combustible Cs in the next decade the potential damage to oral tissues and associated changes in pathogenicity of microorganisms are a major public health concern. The goal of this study is to compare and understand how Cs and ECs affect Ca with respect to oral cells, and how this may relate to treatment efficacy. The proposed study will advance our understanding of the effect of the change in smoking behavior on the pathogenicity of Ca, a major oral pathogen for persistent mucosal oral diseases such as OC that disproportionally affects disadvantaged populations.