Officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say they've found a possible culprit in the national outbreak of e-cigarette-related lung injuries that has been linked to dozens of deaths. Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the CDC called the news a breakthrough in the agency's investigation into the assorted deaths nationwide.
Tests by the CDC found that Vitamin E acetate was discovered in samples taken from 29 patients across 10 states who have fallen ill from the mysterious disease. THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, was detected in 23 of 28 patients.
"These new findings are significant," Schuchat told reporters during a press briefing on Friday. "We have a strong culprit."
"Recent CDC laboratory testing of bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid samples (or samples of fluid collected from the lungs) from 29 patients with EVALI submitted to CDC from 10 states found vitamin E acetate in all of the BAL fluid samples," the CDC wrote on its website about the vaping illness outbreak. "Vitamin E acetate is used as an additive in the production of e-cigarette, or vaping, products.This is the first time that we have detected a potential chemical of concern in biologic samples from patients with these lung injuries."
Schuchat cautioned that researchers still have a lot of work to do and that the agency is continuing to test for a wide range of chemicals.
"This does not rule out other possible ingredients," Schuchat said. "There may be more than one cause."
The CDC also ran tests on a range of other chemicals that could be found in e-cigarettes, or vaping products, including plant oils, petroleum distallates like mineral oil, MCT oil, and terpenes. However, none of those were found in the samples tested by the agency.
The agency said that as of Nov. 5, there have been 2,051 cases of the vaping illness have been reported. Thirty-nine deaths have been confirmed in 24 states and the District of Columbia.
The news from the CDC backs up what New York health officials said after they linked cases of the severe lung illness to vitamin E acetate in cannabis-containing products.
The CDC added that until the investigation is complete, they are continuing to recommend that people should not use e-cigarette, or vaping, products that contain THC, particularly from any informal sources like friends, family, or in-person or online dealers.
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