MAR 24, 2023 9:30 AM PDT

CDC Warnings About Deadly Eyedrop Contamination & A Drug-Resistant Fungus

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

An outbreak of extensively drug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacterial infections that are linked to eye drops has caused a dozen people to lose their sight and killed three others in sixteen states, as of a March 14, 2023 announcement by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The infections have been caused by a strain of P. aeruginosa bacteria known as VIM-GES-CRPA. A total of 68 people have fallen ill so far, in eight cases people went blind from the infection and in another four cases, people's eyeballs had to be surgically removed.

A medical illustration of multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria / Credit: CDC/ Antibiotic Resistance Coordination and Strategy Unit / Medical Illustrator: Jennifer Oosthuizen

A variety of samples have been taken from these patients to try to identify the source of the infection. Most of these individuals reported using artificial tears, or eyedrops made by a few brands. The brand that has been reported by most patients is an over-the-counter product called EzriCare Artificial Tears, which is free of preservatives and sold in multidose bottles.

VIM-GES-CRPA has also been found in bottles of EzriCare eyedrops that had been collected from both people with and without infections in two states, which seems to show that this product has caused the infections. The strain of VIM-GES-CRPA in the bottles has also been matched to the bacteria causing the infections in patients.

Right now, the CDC is working to determine whether the eyedrops were contaminated when they were being made, or if it happened at another time.

The CDC has stressed that anyone who may have EzriCare Artificial Tears stop using the drops immediately, and wait for more information from the CDC and FDA.

Another recent report by the CDC has highlighted the rise of Candida auris, a fungus that has been causing infections in healthcare settings for about fifteen years. The problem is getting worse, however, with C. auris outbreaks occurring about twice as often in 2021 compared to previous years. Candida auris was identified as the cause of an infection for the first time in 17 states between 2019 and 2021.

This fungus is still not a threat to most healthy people, and it is primarily impacting people with weak immune systems. The fungus can spread easily, however, and it is tough to kill. Standard disinfectants such as Lysol won't kill C. auris, and some researchers have warned that we need dedicated products, not just bleach, to kill this stuff.

When people do get Candida infections, they are also difficult to eliminate. Some strains can be destroyed with an intravenous antifungal. Outbreaks of Candida have had fatality rates ranging from 30 to 60 percent. In many fatal cases, people have had underlying medical issues. It seems clear, however, that more attention needs to be paid to this fungal disease and how we can get rid of it.

Source: Annals of Internal Medicine, CDC

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
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