One person has died and at least three others have permanent vision loss due to a bacterial infection possibly linked to a brand of over-the-counter eye drops, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, which urged Wednesday consumers to stop using EzriCare Artificial Tears while it investigates the home.
The majority of those affected reported using preservative-free EzriCare artificial tears before becoming ill, said Maroya Spalding Walters, leader of the CDC’s antimicrobial resistance team.
So far, the CDC has identified at least 55 people in 12 states with Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a type of bacteria resistant to most antibiotics. Cases have been reported in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.
Three-quarters of patients said they had used artificial tears before developing infections. Of those who could recall brand names, 85% said they had used preservative-free EzriCare artificial tears, Walters said. The CDC first alerted the public to the potential danger in a statement dated January 20.
Although the infections have not been definitively attributed to eye drops, the CDC is working with the Food and Drug Administration and state and local health authorities to investigate.
“To my knowledge, this is the first time that these highly resistant organisms have been linked to a contaminated product,” Walters said.
Eleven developed eye infections, of which at least three had gone blind in one eye. Others had respiratory infections or urinary tract infections. One person died when the bacteria entered the bloodstream.
It is not known whether the affected patients had underlying eye conditions that would have made them more susceptible, such as glaucoma or cataracts.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa the bacteria are commonly found in water and soil and even on the hands of otherwise healthy people. Infections usually occur in hospital settings in people with weakened immune systems.
These bacteria are often resistant to standard antibiotics.
“That’s what’s so concerning,” said Dr. Jill Weatherhead, assistant professor of tropical medicine and infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “Our standard treatments are no longer available” to treat the infection.
The drops under study are labeled as being preservative-free.
“That means there’s nothing in the product to prevent microbiological growth,” Walters said.
The product could be contaminated during the manufacturing process or when someone with the bacteria on their skin opens the container. The CDC found the bacteria in eye drop bottles and is testing to see if it matches the strain found in patients.
Eye infection symptoms
According to the CDC, people who have used the eye drops should see a doctor if they experience symptoms, including:
- Yellow, green, or clear discharge from the eye.
- Eye pain or discomfort.
- Redness of the eye or eyelid.
- Sensation of something in the eye (foreign body sensation).
- Increased sensitivity to light.
- Blurry vision.
As of Wednesday, EzriCare Artificial Tears had not been recalled. They had been sold on Amazon and in stores like Walmart.
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