New York- US health officials are advising people to stop using over-the-counter eye drops linked to an outbreak of drug-resistant infections.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent out a health alert to physicians on Wednesday night saying the outbreak has infected at least 55 people in 12 states. One is dead.
Disease investigators have linked infections to EzriCare artificial tears, including some found in blood, urine and lungs. Many patients said they used the product, which is a lubricant used to treat irritation and dryness.
Infections are caused by bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Investigators detected this type of bacteria in opened EzriCare bottles, but further tests are underway to see if the strains match.
EzriCare said it is not aware of any evidence definitively linking the outbreak to the product, but it has stopped distributing the eye drops. It has a notice on its website urging customers to stop using Drop.
“To the greatest extent possible, we are contacting customers to advise against continued use of the product. We have immediately contacted both the CDC and the FDA and indicated our willingness to cooperate with any requests they may make to us,” the company said.
Two weeks ago, the CDC alerted the medical professional society to a possible link between the drops and the infection. Wednesday’s warning was a broader, more public warning.
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 lost permanent sight.
The outbreak is considered particularly alarming 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 new antibiotic called cefiderocol seems to be working.
How can eye drops cause blood or lung infections? The eye connects to the nasal cavity through the tear duct. Bacteria can travel from the nasal cavity to the lungs. Also, bacteria from these parts of the body can spread infection to other sites, such as blood or wounds, CDC officials said.
The product is manufactured by Global Pharma Healthcare Pvt Ltd in India, Ezricare said.