WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- Health officials warned consumers to “stop using” EzriCare Artificial Tears after several cases of bacterial infections.
- Infections were reported across 12 states, with at least three cases of blindness and one death.
- The brand was labeled preservative-free, which meant that it had no protection against “microbiological growth.”
EzriCare Artificial Tears, a brand of over-the-counter eyedrops, has been potentially linked to a bacterial infection that has led to at least three cases of permanent vision loss and one death, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned.
At least 55 people in 12 states have been infected by Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
This type of bacteria is commonly found in soil and water, or even on the hands of otherwise healthy people. Infections usually occur in hospital settings among immunodeficient individuals.
Dr. Jill Weatherhead, an assistant professor of tropical medicine and infectious diseases at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, warned that such bacteria often resist standard antibiotics.
Cases were reported in the states of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.
There were 11 cases of eye infections, with at least three developing blindness in one eye. Others reported urinary tract infections or respiratory infections, while one person died when the bacterium entered the bloodstream.
Maroya Spalding Walters, head of the CDC’s antimicrobial resistance team, said that three-quarters of the patients reported using artificial tears before developing infections. About 85% of those who recalled brand names identified the preservative-free EzriCare Artificial Tears.
Walters stated, “To my knowledge, this is the first time that these highly resistant organisms have been linked to a contaminated product.”
The potential risk was first reported by the CDC on Jan. 20.
The infections have yet to be directly traced to the eyedrops brand. It is also still unknown if the patients had underlying eye conditions, such as glaucoma or cataracts, that would have increased their vulnerability. An investigation is currently being conducted by the CDC, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and state and local health officials.
The CDC found bacteria in the eyedrops bottles and is testing if it matches the strain found in patients.
Walters noted that since the drops are labeled preservative-free, it means “that there’s nothing in the product to prevent microbiological growth.” Contamination could have happened during manufacturing or when an infected person opened the container.
EzriCare Artificial Tears, which was sold on Amazon and at retail stores like Walmart, has not been recalled as of Wednesday. Health officials have warned consumers to stop using the product and seek immediate medical care if they have used the eyedrops and experienced unusual symptoms.
Some symptoms to look out for include: eye pain or discomfort, redness of the eye or eyelid, sensation of a foreign body in your eye, increased sensitivity to light, blurry vision, or discharge from the eye that can be clear, yellow, or green.
Source: NBC News