Outbreak of infection leaving 1 dead and 3 without vision is likely from brand of eyedrops, says CDC

The CDC is investigating an outbreak of an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection that has affected 55 people across the U.S., including one person who died and at least three others who permanently lost their vision. Most of the patients became ill after using eyedrops, according to NBC News, and although various brands of artificial tears were used, the common label among the patients was preservative-free EzriCare Artificial Tears.

Patients were infected with the "rare strain of extensively drug-resistant P. aeruginosa" between June 2022 and January 2022 from 12 states (CA, CO, CT, FL, NJ, NM, NY, NV, TX, UT, WA, WI), according to the CDC, who warns patients to stop using the product "pending additional information."

From NBC News:

Three-quarters of the patients said they'd used artificial tears before they developed infections. Of those who were able to recall brand names, 85% said they'd used preservative-free EzriCare Artificial Tears, Walters said. The CDC first alerted the public to the potential danger in a statement dated Jan. 20. …

Eleven developed eye infections, at least three of whom were blinded in one eye. Others had respiratory infections or urinary tract infections. One person died when the bacterium entered the bloodstream. …

Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria are commonly found in water and soil and even on the hands of otherwise healthy people. Infections usually occur in hospital settings among people with weakened immune systems.

The drops under investigation are labeled as preservative-free.

"That means that there's nothing in the product to prevent microbiological growth," Walters said.

The product could be contaminated during the manufacturing process or when a person with the bacteria on his or her skin opens the container. The CDC found the bacteria in bottles of the eyedrops and is testing to see whether it matches the strain found in patients.

And from the CDC:

Patients who have used EzriCare preservative-free artificial tears and who have signs or symptoms of an eye infection should seek medical care immediately. At this time, there is no recommendation for testing of patients who have used this product and who are not experiencing any signs or symptoms of infection.

Eye infection symptoms may 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
  • Blurry vision