NEW YORK (AP) — 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.
On Wednesday evening, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent out a health alert to doctors, saying the outbreak affected at least 55 people in 12 states. One is dead.
Disease investigators have linked infections, including some found in blood, urine and lungs, to EzriCare artificial tears. Many patients have reported using the product, which is a lubricant used to treat irritation and dryness.
The infections were all caused by a bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Investigators detected this type of bacteria in opened EzriCare bottles, but further testing was underway to see if the strains matched.
EzriCare said it was not aware of any evidence definitively linking the outbreak to the product, but it had stopped distributing the eye drops. It also has a review on its website urging consumers to stop using the drops.
“Where possible, we have reached out to customers to advise them against continuing to use the product. We have 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 warned professional medical societies about the possible link between the drops and infections. Wednesday’s alert was a broader, more public warning.
Infections have been diagnosed in patients from 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 other people suffered permanent vision loss.
The outbreak is considered particularly worrying because the bacteria causing it are resistant to standard antibiotics.
Investigators found that the bacteria was not susceptible to antibiotics routinely tested in public health labs. However, a newer antibiotic called cefiderocol seemed to work.
How can eye drops cause blood or lung infections? The eye connects to the nasal cavity through the tear ducts. Bacteria can travel from the nasal cavity to the lungs. Additionally, bacteria in these parts of the body can seed infections at other sites, such as blood or wounds, CDC officials said.
The product is manufactured in India by Global Pharma Healthcare Pvt Ltd., EzriCare said.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Science and Education Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.