• passive smoking;
  • immune response;
  • children;
  • lymphocytes;
  • second-hand smoke

Vardavas CI, Plada M, Tzatzarakis M, Marcos A, Warnberg J, Gomez-Martinez S, Breidenassel C, Gonzalez-Gross M, Tsatsakis AM, Saris WH., Moreno LA, Kafatos AG. Passive smoking alters circulating naïve/memory lymphocyte T-cell subpopulations in children. Pediatr Allergy Immunol 2010: 21: 1171–1178. © 2010 John Wiley & Sons A/S

While it has been indicated that exposure to second-hand smoke (SHS) can cause a local in vivo response, limited evidence exists on its possible systemic effects from population-based levels of exposure. We investigated into a possible systemic response in the immune parameters and lymphocyte subsets, i.e. B cell (CD19+), T cell (CD4+CD45RO+, CD4+CD45RA+, CD3+CD45RO+, CD3+CD45RA+) and natural killer (CD3+CD16CD56+) lymphocyte subsets relative to exposure to SHS. Blood was drawn from healthy, verified non-smoker, adolescent subjects (n = 68, mean age 14.2) and analysed for cotinine, antioxidants and lymphocyte immunophenotyping. SHS exposure was assessed using serum cotinine. Biomarker quantified exposure to SHS was correlated with a linear dose–response reduction in the percentages of memory CD4+CD45RO+ (p = 0.005) and CD3+CD45RO+ T-cell subsets (p = 0.005 and p = 0.003, respectively) and a linear increase in the percentage of naïve CD4+CD45RA+ and CD3+CD45RA+ T-cell subsets (p = 0.006 and p = 0.003, respectively). Additionally, higher exposure to SHS was associated with a higher CD4+CD45RA+ count (532 vs. 409 cells/ml, p = 0.017). Moreover, after controlling for age, gender, body mass index and plasma antioxidants, SHS exposure was found to be associated with the percentage of circulating naïve and memory CD4+ and CD3+ T-cell subpopulations, as revealed through a linear regression analysis. These findings indicate a systemic immunological response in healthy adolescents exposed to population-based levels of SHS exposure and imply an additional biological pathway for the interaction between exposure to SHS and its adverse effects on human health.