(Reuters) – Researchers in Canada have identified a new type of vaping-related lung injury that they believe is associated with flavorings in conventional vape handles, causing symptoms similar to “light popcorn” injuries seen in workers exposed to flavorings in microwave popcorn.
In this case, published on Thursday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, a 17-year-old man participated who developed a form of bronchiolitis, a serious and irreversible damage to the lungs caused by chemical exposure.
The condition was associated with diacetyl, a chemical that gives microwave popcorn an oily taste and a known cause of bronchiolitis. Various studies have also found diacetyl in vaporous liquids.
A healthy Canadian teenager appeared last spring in the emergency department of a public hospital in Ontario with a severe cough. He was diagnosed with pneumonia and prescribed antibiotics.
Five days later, he returned with worsening symptoms and was hospitalized and received intravenous antibiotics. He continued to decline and was wearing a mechanical fan, but still could not improve.
At this point, he was transferred to the London Center for Medical Sciences and put on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation apparatus or ECMO – an extreme treatment that takes care of the lungs. This stabilized him, but did not change the conditions.
“I was worried that his lungs might never recover enough to get him out of the car,” said Dr. Karen Bosma, a London intensive care physician and study author.
Fearing that he might need a lung transplant, the team transported the teenager to a regional transplant center in Toronto. Since testing excluded the infection, the doctors decided to try high doses of steroids, which helped reduce inflammation.
The patient reported using both flavored nicotine vapors and THC, a psychoactive agent in marijuana. Doctors suspected vaping injury, even before an outbreak in the United States was recorded.
Although the case is similar to more than 2,000 cases of vaping related diseases in the United States, the injury is different. Instead of damaged air bags in the lungs, the teenager had damaged airways, which, according to his doctors, were caused by chemical injury.
“This is a new discovery,” Bosma said.
According to her, several vaporous chemicals could cause injury, but the team focused on diacetyl, since it was shown that it causes similar diseases.
Four months after discharge, the teenager still has breathing problems. Bosma said it was not clear whether his lungs would recover.
"In patients with lungs of popcorn, this is irreversible."
(Reporting by Julie Steenhausen; Editing by Bill Burkrot)