WEDNESDAY, March 4, 2020 (HealthDay News) — E-cigarettes were initially thought to be a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, but a recent outbreak of serious lung illnesses and deaths linked to the nicotine delivery devices called that belief into question.
Now, a new case report details another type of lung illness in a 15-year-old girl who regularly used e-cigarettes: necrotizing pneumonia.
Necrotizing pneumonia is an uncommon complication of pneumonia. It destroys areas of lung tissue, and can occur even if someone has been treated with antibiotics, according to a previous review in Biomed Central.
“It’s pretty unusual for a generally healthy person to get an invasive pneumonia like this, but not impossible,” said Dr. Ravi Kalhan, a professor of medicine and preventive medicine in the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. Kalhan was not involved in the current case, but is familiar with the new report.
He said experts can’t know for sure if vaping caused this particular illness, but animal studies have suggested impaired immune defenses in the lungs.
“The idea that in this case vaping created a setup for severe pneumonia in an individual is a reasonable hypothesis, but a single case does not prove it,” Kalhan said.
What is already known, however, is that more than 2,800 people across all 50 states have been hospitalized with life-threatening respiratory dysfunction tied to recent e-cigarette use, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sixty-eight of those patients died.
Research strongly suggests that an additive called vitamin E acetate, sometimes used in pot-laced vapes, may be triggering these illnesses.
But health experts have also raised a more general alarm about soaring rates of e-cigarette use among teens. A CDC report from November reported that about 1 in every 5 high school students had used e-cigarettes within the past month.
The new case report, written by Dr. Joseph Domachowske and colleagues from Upstate Medical University, State University of New York in Syracuse, revealed that the teen patient had a habit of daily nicotine vaping. She used e-cigarettes several times each hour, and had done so for the past nine months. Like many people who use e-cigarettes, the girl used flavored nicotine, including apple, mango, cotton candy and birthday cake flavors.