Investigation Launched by CDC Into Possible Bacterial Infections Caused by Over-the-Counter Eyedrops

Kos Temenes
By Kos Temenes
February 2, 2023US News
Investigation Launched by CDC Into Possible Bacterial Infections Caused by Over-the-Counter Eyedrops
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia Sept. 30, 2014. Reuters/Tami Chappell/File Photo

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a warning to health care providers and consumers about a specific brand of over-the-counter eyedrops. The CDC is conducting an investigation after one person died and at least three others were left with permanent loss of vision.The eyesdrops, which are sold under the name EzriCare Artificial Tears, have reportedly been responsible for at least 50 bacterial infections across 11 states.

According to a CDC statement in January, it reported that the majority of cases used the preservative-free eyedrops prior to encountering health issues.

So far, the infections have not conclusively been linked to the eyedrops. However, by recommendation of the CDC, patients should immediately stop using the medication pending further investigation and analyses.

The affected people were diagnosed with Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an antibiotic-resistant bacterium. According to the CDC, cases are being investigated in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Texas, Utah, and Washington.

Other symptoms experienced by those affected include respiratory and urinary tract infections. One person died when the bacterium leaked into the bloodstream, as reported by NBC.

As of yet there is no information pertaining to existing eye conditions, such as glaucoma or cataracts, among the affected. Common symptoms include pain and irritability in the eyes, swelling, redness, and light sensitivity, among others.

The bacteria, which are found in water and soil can also be on people’s hands, and tend to mostly affect people with lowered immunity in settings such as hospitals, for example. It is usually resistant to most antibiotics.

“In addition to demonstrating carbapenem resistance, isolates in this cluster are resistant to ceftazidime and cefepime; the subset of isolates that underwent antimicrobial susceptibility testing for ceftazidime-avibactam and ceftolozane-tazobactam were also resistant to these agents,” the CDC investigation reported (pdf).

Dr. Jill Weatherhead, an assistant professor of tropical medicine and infectious diseases at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, says this is an issue of concern.

“Our standard treatments are no longer available to treat this infection,” she told NBC.

EzriCare Artificial Tears do not contain preservatives, as is stated on the manufacturer label. Effectively, microbiological growth is not inhibited as result and could occur when a person with the bacterium on their skin opened the container or at source, during manufacture.

The CDC is currently investigating whether the same strain of bacteria experienced by the patients is present in the eyedrop bottles. So far no order has been issued to recall the product from the shelves and it is widely available on Amazon or sold over-the-counter in stores.

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