Woman suffered dangerous infection from contaminated eye drops

A 72-year-old woman suffered blurred vision and yellow discharge from her eyes due to a dangerous infection caused by recalled eye drops.

The patient, whose story was shared in the Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy journal, had used EzriCare Artificial Tears eye drops, which were since recalled over health fears.

These drops were removed from shelves earlier this year after the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that the product had been linked to drug-resistant bacterial infections causing vision loss and even death.

But this case shows that the tainted bottles, which were designed by Aru Pharma Inc and manufactured by Global Pharma Healthcare, were causing problems long before then.

The journal details how the woman, from Cleveland in the US, was diagnosed with a corneal ulcer caused by the contaminated eye drops in November 2022.

In the report, infectious disease physicians and microbiologists identified the eye drops as the source of the infection, caused by the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

P. aeruginosa is a pathogenic bacterium that’s resistant to treatment with most antibiotics.

It can cause swimmer’s ear, a painful infection of the outer ear canal, and more serious conditions, especially in people with compromised immune systems.

But this case was unusual, the study’s first author said.

Morgan Morelli, an infectious disease fellow at the hospital where the patient was admitted, said: “I’ve never recovered it [P. aeruginosa] from an eye.

“It required a lot of thinking and digging to figure out what was going on. And we never thought it was related to a global manufacturing issue.”

The patient was initially reported to an outpatient eye clinic with blurry vision where she was sent to a hospital emergency department.

Here she was evaluated by ophthalmologists who cultured the infection, prescribed a combination of strong antibiotic eye drops, and sent her home.

However, the next day, her eye was worse and she had noticed a yellow discharge on her pillow so she visited a cornea specialist.

“We wondered if she’d accidentally touched something, or there was some freak accident,” to explain the infection, Morelli said.

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At that point the case was referred to microbiologists and infectious disease experts at the hospital.

They asked the patient’s husband to bring her eye drops in and these were sent to a laboratory for testing.

Then researchers connected the eye infection – and the ulcer it had caused – to the contaminated drops.

Normal antibiotics would not work in this case so she was treated instead by a strong antibiotic, cefiderocol, that has some activity against this type of bacterium, as well as two other topical antibiotics.

The injury to her eye improved, Morelli said, but it’s not known whether she will ever regain total vision.

Since issuing the warning about the eye drops in February, the CDC has identified infectious cases due to P. aeruginosa as early as spring 2022.

In March, the CDC reported that three people have died and four others had their eyeballs removed due to infections linked to the eye drops.

Although the contaminated product has been pulled from stores and can no longer be purchased, it may still pose a risk.

People may still have it on their medicine cabinet shelves, Morelli said.

According to the CDC symptoms of an infection from the drops 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.

EzriCare LLC does not manufacture the lubricant eye drops. The EzriCare Artificial Tears were formulated, designed, and imported by Aru Pharma Inc in the US and were manufactured by Global Pharma Healthcare PVT LTD in India.

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