News Release

Serious new COVID-related smoking threat discovered by Ben-Gurion University researchers

Peer-Reviewed Publication

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

BEER-SHEVA, ISRAEL...March 3, 2021 - Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Researchers (BGU) have found for the first time that cigarette smoke toxicity impacts the protective biofilm in the lungs, particularly concerning when paired with COVID-19 respiratory issues.

Though many health factors are known about smoking, little is known about the overall toxicity potential of its ingredients. Researchers developed a new smoke testing system called a bacterial panel with genetically modified bioluminescent bacteria to measure both filtered and unfiltered cigarette smoke's complex molecular mixture.

According to the new study published in the journal Talanta, the researchers found that cigarette smoke affects communication between bacteria, which can affect microorganisms in the body and cause a negative effect on the formation of biofilm, which protects lung bacterial colonies. The study examined 12 distinct types of commercial cigarettes of varying prices bought at local Israeli stores, revealing that filters helped somewhat in lowering toxicity.

"The experiment proved that the filter is a crucial element in reducing the harm of smoking so therefore, new filters need to be developed to reduce toxicity," explains Prof. Robert Marks, head of the BGU Avram and Stella Goldstein-Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering.

Prof. Robert Marks is a leading expert in the study of genetically engineered bacteria. His work focuses on finding the specific mechanisms of toxins in a variety of materials and their impact on the environment.

Tobacco companies, research organizations, and academics can use the bacterial panel and its accompanying system to cost-effectively monitor the overall toxicity of various commercial cigarettes and test their filter effectiveness.

"The recently developed smoke testing system, based on our bacterial panel, is a new system for researchers that need to analyze toxicity of smoke at a reasonable cost," says Prof. Marks.


In addition to Prof. Marks, the study was led by BGU doctoral student Tim Axelrod and student Merav Lerman. Dr. Dorin Harpaz from the Hebrew University, and Dr. Evgeni Eltzov from the Volcani Center also participated.

About American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) plays a vital role in sustaining David Ben-Gurion's vision: creating a world-class institution of education and research in the Israeli desert, nurturing the Negev community and sharing the University's expertise locally and around the globe. Activities include showcasing BGU's academic excellence and cutting-edge research through educational programs, events and informative communications. AABGU's main purpose is to support Ben-Gurion's vision and the university that bears his name by creating a community of Americans committed to improving the world tomorrow from the heart of the Israeli desert today. For more information visit

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.