Doctors at U of U Health say oily droplets in lungs a common factor in vaping-related illnesses

SALT LAKE CITY — With nearly three dozen cases of recent lung illness related to vaping and counting in Utah, doctors and scientists here at University of Utah Health say we may be on the front line of the issue.

There are dozens of similar cases popping up all around the country, and in some instances people have died as a result of the severe pneumonia-like symptoms.

Scientists at the U of U are trying to lead the charge and sound the alarm about the dangers of vaping.

They said they are now seeing something called macrophages, essentially oily droplets, that accumulate on the lungs.

So far all six patients they have observed here, folks who admitted to vaping, have this condition.

“We are finding very high levels of macrophages that contain oil or lipid-like material—which is not normal, not something we see in the lung with infection or other forms of lung injury,” said Cheryl Pirozzi, a doctor and assistant professor at University of Utah Health.

Sean Callahan, a doctor and assistant professor at University of Utah Health, said people should be wary of vaping in the meantime.

“We still have a lot of work to do to understand this better and get the message out that it’s just not safe to vape right now,” he said.

The good news here is now that scientists have identified these oily droplets, they believe it will allow doctors to better diagnose vaping patients and more quickly provide proper treatment.

The bad news: These cases of severe respiratory illness due to vaping have only been surfacing over the past couple of weeks and doctors expect that number to grow.