Eye drops linked to outbreak of drug-resistant bacteria in US

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.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent out a health alert to doctors Wednesday night, saying the outbreak has affected at least 55 people in 12 states. One died.

Disease researchers have linked the infections, including some found in blood, urine and lungs, to EzriCare artificial tears. Many of the patients said they had used the product, a lubricant used to treat irritation and dryness.

The infections were all caused by a bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Researchers found that kind of bacteria in open EzriCare bottles, but further testing was done to see if the strains matched.

EzriCare said it is not aware of any evidence definitively linking the outbreak to the product, but has stopped distributing the eye drops. There is also a notice on the website urging consumers to stop using the drops.

“As far as possible, we have contacted customers to advise them not to continue using the product. We also immediately contacted both the CDC and the FDA and have indicated our willingness to cooperate with any requests they may have from us,” the company said.

Two weeks ago, the CDC warned professional medical associations about the possible link between the droplets and the infections. Wednesday’s warning was a broader, more public warning.

Infections were reported 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 loss of face.

The outbreak is considered particularly concerning because the bacteria causing it are resistant to standard antibiotics.

Researchers found that the bacteria were not susceptible to antibiotics routinely tested in public health laboratories. However, a newer antibiotic called cefiderocol seemed to work.

How can eye drops cause infections in the blood or lungs? The eye is connected to the nasal cavity through the tear ducts. Bacteria can enter the lungs from the nasal cavity. Also, bacteria in these parts of the body can spread infections in other places, such as in the 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 division is supported by the Science and Educational Media Group of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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