May 2020
Vol 6, Issue 22

About The Cover

Cover image expansion

ONLINE COVER Six percent of Americans—including about 2.5 million high-schoolers—use electronic cigarettes. While these e-cigarettes contain potentially toxic substances, including volatile organic compounds and metals, much remains unknown about their long-term effects on human health. In the first ever human study on how e-cigarettes impact oral health, Ganesan et al. combined microbial analysis with clinical metadata and machine learning algorithms to identify biomarkers associated with their use. The researchers found that when 20 adults used e-cigarettes for 3 months or less, the characteristics of healthy bacteria in their mouths rapidly changed. These bacteria were soon cloaked in a biofilm layer that prevented the body from recognizing them as non-harmful. Although the e-cigarette users in the study appeared outwardly healthy, evidence suggests they had begun to experience molecular-level changes in their oral microbiome that are usually associated with gum disease. These results open the door to further e-cigarette research and call into question claims that e-cigarettes are safe. [CREDIT: MUHAMMAD OWAIS KHAN/GETTY IMAGES]