Over-the-Counter Eyedrops Linked to Blindness, Death

Scientists in the United States are investigating a drug-resistant strain of bacteria found in a certain brand of eyedrops that caused severe injuries in nearly 70 patients over the last year.

Three people have died from an infection of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found the strain in open bottles of EzriCare and Delsam Pharma Artificial Tears, which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned consumers should stop using last month.

The CDC said that while 10 different brands were involved in the infections — which also caused injuries such as blindness — EzriCare was the most common.

EzriCare’s India-based parent company Global Pharma Healthcare voluntarily recalled the products in February after the FDA said it had not provided adequate microbial testing of EzriCare or Delsam.

Two other companies, Apotex Corp. and Pharmedica USA, also recalled their eyedrop products in February, according to NPR, although neither company has been linked to the infections.

The CDC said it had identified 68 people infected with this particular strain of bacteria in 16 states as of March 21. Most of them — 37 — were found in four healthcare facility clusters in those states.

P. aeruginosa is a particularly virulent, drug-resistant bacteria, the new strain even more so. In addition to the three deaths, the CDC says there have been eight reports of blindness and four reports of surgically removed eyeballs as a result of the infection.

Consumers using the products and experiencing symptoms of eye infection should seek help immediately, the agency says. Symptoms include yellow, green, or clear discharge from the eye; eye pain or discomfort; redness of the eye or eyelid; feeling of something in your eye; increased sensitivity to light; and blurry vision.

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