Scientists develop algorithm to help diagnose vaping-related lung injury as deaths continue to mount

New York state physicians have developed a new algorithm to help their peers pinpoint and treat vaping-related lung disease, with cases continuing to accumulate from the mysterious outbreak.

As of Thursday, Nov. 7, more than 2,050 individuals had been stricken by electronic cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) in 49 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. Another 39 have died from the disease as of last week, with investigators now calling the vitamin E acetate additive in THC-based vaping products a “strong culprit.”

Rochester, New York, physicians were some of the first to encounter EVALI in the Empire State. Given that head start, University of Rochester and state health department experts have developed a diagnostic and treatment algorithm to build upon the CDC’s guidance, including a flow-chart for information gathering. Their work was highlighted Friday, Nov. 8, in Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

"This illness has been vexing for physicians across the country and we continue to see people suffering from the dangerous effects of vaping," co-author Daniel Croft, MD, a pulmonologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center's Strong Memorial Hospital, said in a statement. "We expect the guide will help minimize missed diagnoses as cold and flu season ramps up."

The outbreak first surfaced in the spring and Strong Memorial saw its own first case in June. In October, the CDC experts shared tips for radiologists facing EVALI in their practice, and the Radiological Society of North America followed with its own guidance later in the month.

At a Friday (Nov. 8) news briefing, CDC officials highlighted vitamin E acetate as a “very strong culprit” causing the disease, after New York state health officials first identified it in several samples collected in August.