NEW YORK, N.Y. — The New York Times reported that researchers narrowed their focus on what might be causing the vaping illnesses that have killed at least sixteen people and hospitalized over 1,000. Researchers now believe that the illnesses present like chemical burns rather than lipid pneumonia, as once believed. In other words, the lung tissue researchers observed resembles lung tissue after someone has inhaled chemicals. The study appeared in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine and was conducted by scientists with the Mayo Clinic.
Researchers took seventeen biopsy lung samples from vaping illness patients. At least two of the group of samples were from people who died due to the vaping epidemic. Researchers examined the lung tissue samples and reached a startling conclusion. The researchers agreed that the lung tissue looked like the patient had been exposed to chemicals, chemical fumes, or sustained a chemical burn. One scientist said that the sickened peoples’ lung tissue looked like they were exposed to mustard gas in used in World War I.
Scientists have not reached any conclusions regarding the agent that is causing the chemical burns or how this revelation will help them going forward. The group examined used both nicotine and THC-based vaping products. Among the group, thirteen were male, and four were female, and the cohort ranged in age from 19 to 67.
Doctors initially thought that oils like vitamin e acetate, which is sometimes used as a cutting agent for the vaping product, was the culprit. However, in the cases that made up the study group, the doctors found that macrophages — which are a particular immune cell — lining the patients’ lung tissue.
One doctor went on to explain the significance of the findings. The physician said that the patient damaged his or her lungs when vaping. The chemicals in the vape product kill lung cells, the damage causes fluid to build up, and the person cannot breathe. The doctor is concerned about potential permanent lung damage from vaping.
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