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US recalls eye drops due to bacterial contamination: 1 dead, 5 blind

The manufacturer of over-the-counter eye drops said it was recalling EzriCare Artificial Tears. It is linked to a drug-resistant strain of bacteria that has caused the death of at least one person and loss of vision in five patients. Writes about it The New York Times.

Photo: IStock

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised people to stop using eye drops as the agency investigates an outbreak of the pseudomonas aeruginosa strain. These bacteria are capable of causing infections in the blood, lungs and other parts of the body, and their strain has never been identified in the United States before. Prior to the current outbreak, it was resistant to a class of antibiotics called carbapenems, which are generally considered the last resort to deal with such strains.

The strain of bacteria was found in 55 people in 12 states. The agency said the infections resulted in one death and loss of vision in five of the 11 people who had eye infections, as well as several hospitalizations.

Global Pharma, the Indian company that makes EzriCare eye drops, said it was recalling them "out of precaution."

On the subject: In California, a doctor removed 23 lenses from the eye of a patient who complained of pain and poor vision.

“Global Pharma is fully cooperating with the US federal authorities and continues to investigate this matter, but so far we have not determined whether our manufacturing facility is the source of the infection,” the company said in a statement.

Most of the people affected by the outbreak used EzriCare Artificial Tears before becoming infected.

The CDC reported that a drug-resistant strain of bacteria was found in open vials of EzriCare eye drops collected from patients with and without eye infections. The agency tests sealed bottles to determine if contamination has occurred during the manufacturing process.

The bacterium strain was found in people in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin between May 2022 and January 2023.

The CDC said that people who have used EzriCare Artificial Tears and who have signs of an eye infection should seek immediate medical attention.

Symptoms may include yellow, green, or clear discharge from the eyes, redness of the eyes or eyelids, increased sensitivity to light, and pain or discomfort in the eyes.

Dr. Thomas Steinemann, a spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, said people don't need to be "too worried" about using other types of eye drops.

“We use them for moisturizing, we use them for antibiotics, we use them to treat glaucoma,” Dr. Steinemann said. “We use eye drop bottles every day and I think the vast majority of eye drop bottle users have no cause for concern.”

Dr. Steinemann, an ophthalmologist at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, noted that EzriCare Artificial Tears contain no preservatives, which means that if contaminated, there is nothing in them to prevent bacterial growth.

Doctors often recommend preservative-free drops to patients if they use them more than four times a day, he says, because preservatives can increase eye irritation. He said he had only heard of preservative-free eye drops available in disposable vials that could not be closed and used later.

When people use eye drops of any type, they should wash their hands, cap the bottle after using it, and avoid touching the tip, Dr. Steinemann says, because that could make the drops non-sterile.

“Do not touch the bottle to your eyes, face or nose,” he advised.

EzriCare, a pharmaceutical company based in New Jersey, said it does not manufacture eye drops and is only involved in product labeling and marketing to customers.

According to EzriCare, the company first became aware of the CDC investigation on January 20 and "immediately took action to stop any further distribution or sale of EzriCare eye drops." EzriCare representatives said they tried to contact customers to ask them to stop using eye drops.

You may be interested in: top New York news, stories of our immigrants and helpful tips about life in the Big Apple - read it all on ForumDaily New York

Public health officials are calling for more to be done around the world to stop the spread of drug-resistant infections that occur when bacteria and fungi evolve to outmaneuver the antibiotics and antifungals designed to kill them. The more antibiotics and antifungals given to people and livestock, the more likely resistance is to develop, health officials say.

Nearly 2020 people died from drug-resistant infections in the United States in 30, up 000% from 15, according to a CDC analysis. The rise was driven largely by the coronavirus, which was a mystery to medical professionals in the early days of the pandemic. Many turned to antibiotics to try and cure the disease before vaccines and other treatments were available.

Every year, more than 700 people worldwide die from drug-resistant infections. In 000, the United Nations warned that without concerted action, these infections could kill 2019 million people annually by 10 and spark a global economic crisis.

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