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CDC warns of bacteria that caused 3 deaths and 4 eyeball removals from recalled contaminated eyedrops

Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an update to an earlier warning about a bacterial contamination in eyedrop brands that have caused three deaths and four cases of eyeball removal, as well as other reports of vision loss.

EzriCare Artificial Tears and Delsam Pharma’s Artificial Tears were part of an early February 2023 recall over "possible contamination," which was echoed by the EzriCare brand, as well.

The CDC worked in conjunction with the recall advisory to inform citizens about the contamination of the eyedrops that included a drug-resistant strain of bacteria called pseudomonas aeruginosa.

The bacteria can cause disease in plants, animals, and humans and is known for being resistant to drugs and advanced antibiotics.

The CDC issued the advisory "about infections with an extensively drug-resistant strain" of bacteria in 12 states that showed up in patients with "keratitis, endophthalmitis, respiratory infection, urinary tract infection, and sepsis."

"Most patients reported using artificial tears. Patients reported more than 10 different brands of artificial tears, and some patients used multiple brands. The majority of patients who used artificial tears reported using EzriCare Artificial Tears, a preservative-free, over-the-counter product packaged in multidose bottles," the CDC added.

Listed patient outcomes included "permanent vision loss resulting from cornea infection, hospitalization, and one death due to systemic infection."

On March 21, 2023, the CDC updated its alert, identifying 68 patients in 16 states.

Three people died, with another eight reports of vision loss and four reports of "enucleation (surgical removal of eyeball)."

Unfortunately, a severe eye disease can feel similar to a less serious issue, according to the Washington Post, who spoke to Dave Patel, an ophthalmologist with the Mayo Clinic.

“If it is truly bacterial, a direct eye exam will determine it, since there are certain clinical features we can see that would suggest bacteria and the degree of infection,” the eye specialist told the outlet.

The CDC warned that anyone who used EzriCare or Delsam Pharma’s artificial tears recently should look out for symptoms of eye infections, which 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 (foreign body sensation)
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • [and] Blurry vision"

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