A deadly outbreak linked to eye drops containing bacteria has killed another, bringing the total number of deaths to four.
Health officials have now identified a total of 81 people affected by the outbreak, which was caused by eye drops contaminated with a rare and “extremely drug-resistant” strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
It is a type of bacteria commonly found in soil and water and is often responsible for blood and lung infections.
Since the outbreak was last updated in March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said 13 more patients had died from the rare superbug.
As of May 15thThe total number of deaths was four, while 14 people lost their sight in one or both eyes and four people had their eyeballs surgically removed.
The newly identified victims were either living with others in long-term care facilities or had used contaminated artificial tears.
The eye drops in question are sold in US pharmacies, not in the UK.
In a bid to contain the outbreak, health officials in February pulled EzriCare Artificial Tears — a preservative-free, over-the-counter product made in India — from pharmacy shelves.
But a number of pharmaceutical companies also recalled their products in the wake of the outbreak over concerns they might not be sterile.
Patients infected with the superbug recalled using up to 10 brands of artificial tears, with EzriCare Artificial Tears being the most commonly reported.
Aside from being found in eye drops, the rare strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa showed signs of spreading and colonizing the bodies of asymptomatic patients at a long-term care center in Connecticut, USA.
This sparked fears from health officials that the superdrug-resistant strain – which had not been found in the country before – could gain a foothold in US public health.
So far, the CDS has identified cases of the bug in 18 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.
CDC officials said patients who have used eye drops and are experiencing symptoms of infection “should seek medical attention immediately.”
According to the CDC, symptoms of an eye infection can include:
- Yellow, green, or clear discharge from the eye
- eye pain or discomfort
- Redness of the eye or eyelid
- sensation of something in the eye (foreign body sensation)
- Increased sensitivity to light
- blurred vision
What is Pseudomonas aeruginosa?
Pseudomonas is a type of bacteria that lives in the environment and is commonly found in soil and water.
Its ultra-resistant strain, identified in artificial tears, is often the cause of blood and lung infections.
People can also become infected with it after surgery.
According to the CDC, it can spread in healthcare settings if people are then exposed to water or soil containing Pseudomonas aeruginosa germs.
Resistant strains of germs can also be transmitted from one person to another in the healthcare sector through contaminated hands, equipment or surfaces.
Patients in hospitals tend to be most at risk, according to the CDC, especially those:
- on ventilators (ventilators)
- with devices such as catheters
- with wounds from surgery or burns
However, infection can be avoided if patients and caregivers wash their hands frequently with soap and water and if patient rooms are cleaned daily.
People who wear reusable contact lenses are four times more likely to develop an eye infection that can damage vision than people who wear daily disposable lenses.
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued an alert in March after two cancer drugs were found to contain life-threatening levels of Pseudomonas aeruginosa.