Smoking status interacts with the association between mannose-binding lectin serum levels and gene polymorphism and the carriage of oropharyngeal bacteria
Mannose-binding lectin (MBL) role in the carriage of oropharyngeal bacteria is not known. We investigated the association of smoking, MBL2 polymorphisms, and MBL concentrations with oropharyngeal carriage of respiratory bacteria in young men. Oropharyngeal specimens, MBL concentrations, and MBL2 gene polymorphisms were measured in 124 asthmatic and 394 nonasthmatic Finnish military recruits. The carriage rates of S. pneumoniae (p = 0.002), N. meningitidis (p = 0.005), and beta-hemolytic streptococci (p < 0.001) throughout the military service were significantly higher among smokers than in nonsmokers. An MBL level below the median proved to be a significant risk factor for the carriage of N. meningitidis (odds ratio [OR] = 1.9; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.0-3.6) and beta-hemolytic streptococci (OR = 2.0; 95% CI 1.2-3.2) in the nonsmokers and a borderline significant risk factor for the carriage of S. pneumoniae (OR = 1.5; 95% CI 0.9-2.6), whereas low MBL levels producing MBL2 haplotypes (LXA/LXA, LXA/O, HYA/O, LYA/O, O/O) seemed to be associated with the carriage of N. meningitidis (OR = 1.8; 95% CI 1.0-3.4) and S. pneumoniae (OR = 1.6; 95% CI 0.9-2.7). Thus, MBL deficiency may predispose nonsmokers to oropharyngeal carriage of these bacteria. We hypothesize that the major factor contributing to elevated bacterial carriage in smokers might be increased bacterial adherence to epithelial cells, which obscures the effect of MBL.
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