Drug-resistant bacterium found in eye drops has infected 55 people in 12 states
A strongly drug-resistant bacterium has been found in multiple brands of artificial tears eyedrops; the most commonly reported was EzriCare Artificial Tears, sold by Walmart, Amazon and other retailers. The bacterium has infected 55 people throughout 12 US states, having killed one patient and leaving others hospitalised or with permanent vision loss.
The CDC has released an alert warning of the bacteria, although the FDA is yet to announce any product recalls. The CDC is recommending that clinicians and patients stop using the products in lieu of any official guidance from regulatory authorities.
EzriCare’s manufacturer has announced that it is planning to recall the product.
The bacterium is a strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is a very versatile, drug-resistant bacterium often found in freshwater. It can cause skin, wound, burn, lung and systemic infections, but most often affects immune-compromised people, for example those with cystic fibrosis.
Currently, 35 of the 55 infected were found in four clusters of cases within healthcare facilities, among these four clusters EzriCare was the only product consistent between them all.
The strain circulating at the moment is Verona Integron-mediated Metallo-ß-lactamase (VIM) and Guianan-Extended Spectrum-ß-Lactamase (GES)-producing carbapenem-resistant P. aeruginosa, also known as VIM-GES-CRPA. This is the first time VIM-GES-CRPA has spread in the US and it is resistant to countless antibiotics, including: cefepime, ceftazidime, piperacillin-tazobactam, aztreonam, carbapenems, ceftazidime-avibactam and various others. It currently appears that the strain is still susceptible to cefiderocol, a new antibiotic that received FDA approval in 2019.
Cases have so far been reported in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.
EzriCare has stated: “As of today, we are not aware of any testing that definitively links the Pseudomonas aeruginosa outbreak to EzriCare Artificial Tears. Nonetheless, we immediately took action to stop any further distribution or sale of EzriCare Artifical Tears. To the greatest extent possible, we have been contacting customers to advise them against continued use of the product.”
The company is so far cooperating with the CDC and FDA on the investigation.