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St. Louis doctor calls new CDC vaping findings 'a huge discovery'

"We've known oil is harmful for lungs, but now we've found oil in this product causing lung injury," said Dr. Michael Plisco.

ST. LOUIS — A local doctor is giving us more insight in what the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention calls a "breakthrough in finding a possible cause of vaping-related illness."

"I agree. It's a huge breakthrough," said Dr. Michael Plisco, a Critical Care Pulmonologist and medical director of the west county Mercy Hospital's extracorporeal membrane oxygenation program.

Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tested lung fluid samples from 29 patients in 10 states and say they found vitamin E acetate in all of them. Vitamin E acetate is an oil derived from the vitamin.

RELATED: CDC confirms vitamin E acetate possibly linked to vaping illness outbreak

"We've known oil is harmful for the lungs, but now we've found oil in this product causing lung injury," said Dr. Plisco.

Dr. Plisco cared for a patient with confirmed vaping-related illness. Doctors said the Jefferson County man, who was in his 40s, had a history of vaping that started in May. 

He died in September. It was the first vaping-related death in Missouri.

"I think it reinforces what we initially thought with our case that some of the damage is related to the oils in substances," Dr. Plisco added. "We now have another piece to put in the puzzle to help define the illness. It doesn't mean this is the cause. It's a link."

According to the CDC, as of Tuesday, there have been 39 confirmed vaping-related deaths in 24 states and the District of Columbia. More than 2,000 people nationwide have been sickened by the outbreak.

So far in Missouri, there have been 22 reports of vaping-related illness.

Dr. Plisco admits while today's breakthrough is a big one, researchers still have a long way to go.

"We don't know the carrier. We don't know if it starts with stomach problems and progresses to the lungs. We don't know if it starts with just lung issues. There are still lots of unknowns that we still have, so I think we need to be cautious as information comes forward."


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