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Washington Study Finds Maternal Smoking May Harm Infant Immunity

MetzgerMaternal smoking is associated with both respiratory and non-respiratory infections in infants, resulting in increased risk for hospitalization and death, according to a study from the University of Washington School of Public Health. The study, published in Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, was presented as an abstract on October 27 at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, FL.


The research, led by Dr. Michael Metzger, who was then a graduate student at the School, reviewed hospital records and death certificates of 50,000 infants born in Washington State from 1987 and 2004. The infants of mothers who smoked were an estimated 50 percent more likely to be admitted to a hospital or to die from a wide variety of infectious diseases than babies of mothers who did not smoke, according to researchers. Even full-term babies with normal weight are at increased risk for hospitalization or death from multiple types of infections if their mothers smoked.


"The study also found that women who smoked a greater amount of cigarettes during pregnancy had a higher risk of infection than those who smoked less," according to Dr. Metzger, who is now a post-doctoral fellow at Columbia University. Counseling pregnant women to reduce their smoking, even if they are not able to quit completely, may help reduce the adverse impact of maternal smoking on infant outcomes. Co-authors of the paper were Dr. Abigail Halperin, Dr. Lisa Manhart and Dr. Stephen Hawes of the University of Washington School of Public Health.


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[Photo: Dr. Michael Metzger]