Canadian doctors discover new lung injury related to vaping

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NEW YORK (CBS) Doctors believe they've discovered a new type of lung injury related to vaping. They say a 17-year-old in Canada almost died after developing an injury similar to popcorn lung, which does not follow the pattern of lung injuries seen in more than 2,200 cases in the U.S. Doctors suspect flavored and THC containing products are the cause.

By the time the 17-year-old boy was admitted to an ICU in Ontario, Canada, this past spring, what had started as a bad cough had developed into a life-threatening illness.

Dr. Karen Bosma with London Health Sciences Centre Canada treated the patient, whose family doesn't want him identified.

Reporter Dr. Tara Narula: How critical did his condition get?
Dr. Karen Bosma: Extremely critical, he was on life support and we were concerned he might not survive.

Bosma says what she saw on his imaging didn't follow the usual pattern of vaping-related lung injury that has emerged in recent months, particularly in the United States.

"We also did CT scans and that gives us a deeper look at the lungs... that showed he had a diffuse pattern," Bosma said. "So if you picture the branches of a tree in the springtime when a tree is budding, that is what we are seeing on these images of the CT scan and that's a pattern that is in keeping with damage."

Doctors diagnosed a type of lung injury known as bronchiolitis, also known as "popcorn worker's lung." Small airways in the lungs become so inflamed and obstructed that they cannot expel carbon dioxide, which can then build up in the body to toxic levels.

According to the study's authors "popcorn lung" is different from the type of injury typically seen in vaping-related illness where the damage occurs in the tiny air sacs -- or alveoli -- at the end of the airway.

New York state investigators are testing vaping devices to see which compounds may be causing the lung illness. The Centers for Disease Control has identified vitamin-e acetate as a common thread, but experts doubt that's the only culprit.

"We will absolutely continue to look for everything," said New York Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. "We have not found vitamin e acetate. We will continue to analyze and tease apart whatever chemicals are in the samples."