Eye drops linked to outbreak of drug-resistant bacteria

Eye drops linked to outbreak of drug-resistant bacteria

NEW YORK >> U.S. health officials are advising people to stop using over-the-counter eye drops that have been linked to outbreaks of drug-resistant infections.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent a health alert to doctors on Wednesday night, saying the outbreak involved at least 55 people in 12 states. One died.

Disease researchers have linked infections, including some found in blood, urine and lungs, to EzriCare artificial tears. Many patients said they used the product, which is a lubricant used to treat irritation and dryness.

All infections were caused by the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Investigators detected this type of bacteria in the opened EzriCare vials, but further testing is underway to determine if the strains match.

EzriCare said it was not aware of any evidence definitively linking the outbreak to the product, but that it had stopped distributing the eye drops. It also has a notice on its website urging consumers to stop using the drops.

“We have contacted customers as much as possible to advise them against further use of the product. “We immediately contacted the CDC and the FDA and expressed our willingness to cooperate with any requests they may have from us,” the company said.

Two weeks ago, the CDC alerted professional medical societies to the possible link between dropsy and infections. Wednesday’s warning was a broader, more public warning.

The infections were diagnosed in patients in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin. One patient – in Washington – died of a blood infection. At least five others suffered permanent vision loss.

The outbreak is considered particularly worrisome because the bacteria causing it are resistant to standard antibiotics.

The researchers found that the bacteria were not susceptible to antibiotics routinely tested in public health laboratories. However, a newer antibiotic called cefiderocol seems to have worked.

How can eye drops cause blood or lung infections? The eye is connected to the nasal cavity through tear ducts. Bacteria can pass from the nasal cavity to the lungs. Also, bacteria in those parts of the body can cause infections in other places, such as blood or wounds, CDC officials said.

The product is manufactured in India by Global Pharma Healthcare Pvt Ltd., EzriCare said.


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