Genotoxicity of glue sniffing/huffing and tobacco use has been examined in 302 street boys (median age 13 years) and 50 age-matched control school boys who were neither tobacco nor glue users. All the street boys were tobacco users. In addition, 155 were addicted to gasp an industrial adhesive popularly known as 'Golden glue'. Micronucleus (MN) frequency was determined as a measure of chromosomal breakage in exfoliated buccal epithelial cells (BECs) and DNA double strand breaks were quantitatively assessed by counting γ-H2AX foci using immunofluorescence microscopy. Micronucleated cell frequencies (MCFs) in BEC of glue non-addicted (only tobacco) and addicted (tobacco plus glue) street boys were 1.87 ± 1.06‰ and 4.04 ± 2.55‰ respectively, which were significantly higher than that of control (0.32 ± 0.11‰, p<0.0001). Similarly, the numbers γ-H2AX foci in nuclei of BEC were 2.3- and 5.2-times more than control in glue non-addicted and addicted street boys respectively (p<0.0001). Spearman's rank correlation revealed a strong positive association between years of glue addiction with MCFs and γ-H2AX foci numbers, and the association between glue addiction and chromosomal and DNA damage remained positive and significant after controlling income, spending on addiction and loss of appetite as potential confounders in multivariate logistic regression analysis. Thus, addiction to tobacco among the street children in India is associated with chromosomal and DNA damage in BECs and the severity of these changes is significantly increased by the habit of sniffing/huffing of industrial glue.
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