Published On: Tue, May 23rd, 2023
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Eye drop deaths rise as patients have eyeballs removed | US | News

Four people are dead and more than a dozen have been blinded after eye drops were contaminated with a rare superbug.

EzriCare Artificial Tears were recalled in February after reports that eye drops had been contaminated by a bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is commonly found in soil and water and is often the cause of blood and lung infections.

Up to 81 patients across 18 US states have been identified as being infected with the bacteria so far. The public is advised to stop using Delsam Pharma’s Artificial Eye Ointment, an over-the-counter product imported from Indian firm Global Pharma Healthcare Private Limited Global Pharma.

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Global Pharma Healthcare’s Artificial Tears Lubricant Eye Drops, distributed by EzriCare and Delsam Pharma, have also been recalled.

A spokesman for EzriCare said last month that the company was “not aware of any testing that definitively links the Pseudomonas aeruginosa outbreak to EzriCare Artificial Tears”. But they added that the company had moved to stop the distribution of the product.

The spokesman said: “To the greatest extent possible, we have been contacting customers to advise them against continued use of the product.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that, as of May 15, four people had died, while 14 had lost their vision in one or both of their eyes and four had had their eyeballs surgically removed.

Recently identified victims are reported to have either lived in long-term care facilities with other people affected or had used contaminated artificial tears. EzriCare Artificial Tears were on sale in US pharmacies and could not be purchased from stores in the UK.

But a number of pharmaceutical firms have withdrawn their products following the outbreak as well amid concerns they might not be sterile, the Sun reports.

Up to 10 brands of artificial tears were recalled being used by patients who contracted the superbug but the EzriCare product was most commonly reported.

In addition to being found in eye drops, the rare strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa showed signs of spreading among asymptomatic patients in a long-term care centre in Connecticut, US, and colonising their bodies.

This has worried health officials who fear the super-resistant strain – which had not previously been identified in the country – could gain a foothold in US health care settings. The bug has been traced in 18 states so far: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.

CDC officials have urged anyone who’s used the eye drops and experienced symptoms of infection to seek immediate medical attention.

Symptoms reportedly include yellow, green or clear discharge from the eye, eye pain or discomfort, redness of the eye or eyelid, a feeling as if something is in your eye, increased sensitivity to light and blurry vision.

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