Contaminated Eye Drops Linked to Deaths Across the US
Recent reports suggest that contaminated eye drops may have a connection to deaths nationwide.
The contamination of eye drops is a serious issue that can lead to severe infections and, in some cases, even death.
After the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) warned healthcare providers to discontinue using a widely used brand of eye drops due to infections that resulted in at least one death, two more fatalities have been reported.
As of March 14, health experts have identified a total of 68 individuals across 16 states in the US as having contracted infections stemming from an unusual drug-resistant variant of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacterium.
Aside from the fatalities, 8 individuals have reportedly experienced complete vision loss, while four others have had to undergo surgical removal of at least one of their eyes.
Of the total cases, over 50% have connections with outbreaks traced back to four separate healthcare facilities.
The death toll from an outbreak linked to contaminated recalled eye drops has risen and more people have lost their vision. https://t.co/3ENfpAa0Uz
— ABC News (@ABC) March 23, 2023
A Closer Look at the Situation
A fundamental similarity among most of those affected in the outbreak was using EzriCare Artificial Tears, a preservative-free eye drop produced by the Indian pharmaceutical firm Global Pharma.
According to the CDC, eye infections affect more than 1.5 million Americans yearly. Various factors, including bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens, can cause these infections.
However, using contaminated eye drops significantly contributes to this growing problem.
Contaminated eye drops can contain harmful bacteria that can cause serious infections, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa or endophthalmitis, a severe inflammation of the eye’s interior.
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P. aeruginosa is a versatile bacterium that can thrive in various environments, ranging from jet fuel to distilled water.
It can form a biofilm, making it challenging to eliminate with common disinfectants. In healthcare facilities, P. aeruginosa is a persistent contaminant.
#WorldNews: Death toll increases due to contaminated eye drops #infection #EyeDrops #CDC https://t.co/rZdogbOIut
— Republic (@republic) March 27, 2023
The outbreak of the new strain of P. aeruginosa in the US is particularly concerning. It is resistant to the antibiotic carbapenem (CRPA).
This strain, called VIM-GES-CRPA, possesses two additional enzymes (VIM and GES) that render many β-lactam antibiotics ineffective, making it challenging to treat.
The strain on the contaminated eye drops
In one instance, a 72-year-old man was diagnosed with an ongoing infection and severe vision loss in his right eye.
Experts found both his eye and eye drops to have an infection of the resistant strain. The doctor prescribed targeted antibiotics hourly.
However, despite weeks of treatment and some improvement, the infection persisted, and his vision did not return.
Unfortunately, a 68-year-old woman from Miami had to undergo the removal of her infected right eye last September after using eye drops to alleviate irritation caused by her contact lenses.
A health expert initially diagnosed her red and swollen eye as a scratched cornea and treated it with broad-spectrum antibiotics.
Her pain persisted despite returning to doctors 10 times over the month. Then she eventually became legally blind.
Only in January, after her clinic advised her to stop using the eye drops following the CDC’s notice of the outbreak, was a connection made between the eye drops and the infection.
The patient is now suing the manufacturer, distributors, and healthcare provider. She is also suing the insurer for forcing her to switch to the problematic product.
Despite the lack of testing confirming a connection between their eye drops and the outbreak, EzriCare’s US distributors have withdrawn the product from the market.
Similarly, Global Pharma Healthcare has voluntarily recalled the product. This move is in response to a list of violations filed by the US Food and Drug Administration. It includes insufficient microbial testing.
Contaminated eye drops are a serious issue that can lead to severe infections and even death. Healthcare providers and patients need to take proper precautions to prevent the contamination of eye drops.