Eye drops linked to drug-resistant bacteria outbreak

Eye drops linked to drug-resistant bacteria outbreak

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

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

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

All the infections were caused by a bacterium called Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Investigators detected that type of bacteria in the opened EzriCare bottles, but further testing was underway to see if the strains matched.

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

“To the greatest extent possible, we have contacted customers to advise them against continued use of the product. We also immediately contacted the CDC and FDA and indicated our willingness to cooperate with any requests they may have of us,” the company said.

Two weeks ago, the CDC alerted professional medical societies to the possible link between droplets and infections. Wednesday’s alert 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 driving it are resistant to standard antibiotics.

The investigators found that the bacteria were not susceptible to any antibiotics routinely tested in public health laboratories. However, a newer antibiotic called cefiderocol seemed to work.

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

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

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