Eye drops contaminated with deadly bacteria have caused nearly 70 infections in 16 states

By Erika Edwards NBC news

The deadly bacteria found in some eye drops — which have already been pulled from the market — that have caused death, blindness and numerous serious infections have never been seen in the United States by 2022, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). , for its English acronym).

[“Ya no puedo jugar con mis nietos”: una mujer latina asegura en demanda que perdió un ojo por gotas contaminadas]

The bacteria infected dozens of people and killed three. Although the contaminated vials have been removed from stores and other healthcare facilities, the CDC hopes to continue to identify more cases.

What worried experts the most is how this type of bacteria, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is well known to scientists, has become resistant to almost all treatments.

EzriCare brand eye drops.EzriCare

As of April 7, the CDC has identified 68 cases of the new strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in 16 states. The investigation is continuing, although the agency must wait for states to report other cases.

[Una bacteria carnívora acecha en los océanos]

More than half of the cases were found in extended medical care centers. Almost all are linked to contaminated eye drops imported from India.

More resistant to treatments

Pseudomonas aeruginosa has been known for years. There were about 28,800 drug-resistant cases in United States hospitals in 2020, according to a CDC investigator who was not authorized to speak to the media.

But the new infections revealed a variant of the bacterium that had never been reported in the United States: carbapenem-resistant Pseudomonas with a Verona integron-mediated metallo-β-lactamase and an extended-spectrum guiana β-lactamase. That long name actually shows that her genes have been mutated to make her more resistant to drugs.

“Originally it was Pseudomonas,” Dr. Robert Bonomo, a professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, who has studied a variety of drug-resistant bacteria since the 1990s, said in an interview.

[La crisis de opioides no es un problema solo de blancos: las muertes entre hispanos se han disparado]

A CDC investigation found this out infections associated with eye drops can be treated with a single antibiotic called cefidecorol.

There is nothing new about the way mutated bacteria invade the body. Drug resistance makes it dangerous.

Eye infections are common. But since the eyes are directly connected to the nasal cavity, bacteria can move into the respiratory tract and cause pneumonia.

“Pseudomonas aeruginosa can affect any tissue in the body as it travels through the blood and can cause sepsis,” said Dr. Guillermo Amescua, a cornea specialist at the Bascom Palmer Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Amescu’s team treated seven patients affected by the outbreak.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa can affect any tissue in the body as it travels through the blood and can cause sepsis.”

Dr. Guillermo Amescua Inst. Bascom Palmer

The Connecticut Department of Health investigated its first case in June 2022. Since then, the spokesman said, the agency has identified 26 patients. Most of them were in extended health care institutions.

Healthy people can spread the bacteria without even knowing they have it on their skin, although there is no evidence of person-to-person transmission outside health care settings, a CDC expert said. Most cases are directly related to contaminated eye drops.

Eye drops withdrawn from the market

EzriCare eye drops were the most used in people who later developed the disease. Those eye drops have been recalled, along with Delsam Pharma’s artificial tears and artificial eye ointment.

Three patients died. Eight required corneal transplants. Four had at least one eye removed.

The CDC warned the public about the potential danger of eye drops in a January 20 announcement. But doctors across the country have been reporting cases of infection with the bacteria since at least last summer.

On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a preliminary inspection report at the Global Pharma Healthcare facility in India, where problems were found with the manufacturing process and the factory’s measures to ensure sterilization, according to information from the Associated Press news agency.

“Don’t hesitate. Go to the doctor”

That’s what happened to Juan Lopez, 93, of Miami, Florida, who used EzriCare drops for months before getting an infection in January. The doctor prescribed him antibiotic drops.

[Los CDC vinculan tres muertes y casos de ceguera con el uso de gotas contaminadas]

But in early February, López developed a fever of 103°F and was hospitalized. Blood tests showed that he had Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Lopez was successfully treated and now advises others to pay attention to unusual symptoms. “Don’t delay. Definitely go to the doctor,” he said.

A mutated variant of Pseudomonas emphasizes increases the risk of antibiotic resistance.

“These bacteria were on this planet long before us and for millions and millions of years, and they developed mechanisms to survive,” said Bonomo, the Cleveland professor.

“We like to think we can compete with them [las bacterias]but they tend to be one step ahead of us,” he said. “That puts us at a disadvantage.”

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