NEW YORK- US 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 sent a health alert to doctors late Wednesday, saying the outbreak includes at least 55 people in 12 states. One died.
Disease investigators have linked the infections, including some found in the blood, urine and lungs, to EzriCare artificial tears. Many of the patients said they used 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 the opened bottles of EzriCare, but further testing was underway to see if the strains matched.
EzriCare said it knew of no 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.
“To the extent possible, we have contacted customers to advise them against further use of the product. We also immediately contacted both CDC and FDA and indicated our willingness to cooperate with any requests they may have from us,” the company said. said.
Two weeks ago, the CDC warned medical professional societies about the possible link between the 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 could the eye drops cause infections in the blood or lungs? The eye connects to the nasal cavity through the tear ducts. Bacteria can move from the nasal cavity to the lungs. Bacteria in these body parts can also seed infections elsewhere, such as in the blood or wounds, CDC officials said.
The product is manufactured in India by Global Pharma Healthcare Pvt Ltd., EzriCare said.