THURSDAY, Oct. 3, 2019 (HealthDay News) — The number of Americans sickened with a severe lung illness tied to vaping continues to climb, U.S. health officials said Thursday.

Specifically, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now reports a total of 1,080 cases occurring in 48 states and the Virgin Islands. Included in that number are 18 deaths from 15 states. Products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) could be a main driver behind the illnesses. According to Anne Schuchat, M.D., principal deputy director of the CDC, “most patients report a history of using THC-containing products, and most patients are male and young people. About 78 percent reported using THC-containing products within three months of symptom onset, and 37 percent reported using only THC-containing products.” Continuing a trend noted in prior weeks, 70 percent of patients are male, 80 percent are under 35, and more than a third of the cases (37 percent) involve someone under the age of 21.

While THC is a main suspect in the CDC’s investigation, a separate study, published online Oct. 2 in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests other chemicals might play a role. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic Arizona conducted an examination of 17 cases involving vaping-linked lung injury — including lung biopsies. All of the patients examined had severe forms of the illness, and two had died.

“In all cases, histopathological findings showed patterns of acute lung injury, including acute fibrinous pneumonitis, diffuse alveolar damage, or organizing pneumonia, usually bronchiolocentric and accompanied by bronchiolitis,” write the authors of the research letter. “No histologic findings were specific, but foamy macrophages and pneumocyte vacuolization were seen in all cases and may be useful diagnostic clues in an appropriate clinical context.”

Press Release: CDC
NEJM Research Letter

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