The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning people to stop using EzriCare artificial tears after over-the-counter eye drops were linked to 50 reported infections, as well as one associated death. Although a recall has not yet been issued, by EzriCaredoctors and their patients should immediately stop using the product until the CDC’s investigation is complete, according to a statement from the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
EzcriCare said in a statement dated February 1, “Where possible, we have reached out to customers to advise them against continuing to use the product. We also immediately contacted the CDC and FDA and indicated our willingness to cooperate with any requests they may have of us.
Infections associated with eye drops have been reported in at least 11 states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Texas, Utah and Washington. So far, experts know that the reported issues mostly occurred from May 2022 to January 2023 and were caused by the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa, according to the statement. In addition to eye infections, the bacteria caused respiratory or urinary tract infections; the deceased was diagnosed with a blood infection. The infections have also led to complications, such as permanent vision loss and hospitalization.
Because Pseudomonas aeruginosa are resistant to some forms of antibiotics and are highly adaptable, infections caused by the bacteria are “extremely difficult…to treat in modern medicine,” according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The bacteria can be found in the environment (such as in water or soil), but it is also spread in healthcare settings through contaminated hands, equipment or surfaces, according to the CDC. (The statement does not specify how the affected vials of EzriCare artificial tears became contaminated.) Infections caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa in hospitals and other medical facilities are fairly common: among those hospitalized, there were about 32,600 cases in 2017 alone, according to the latest data available from the CDC. The risk is highest for people with surgical wounds or burns, people who rely on medical devices such as catheters, and people who use ventilators.
During the ongoing investigation, tests revealed the presence of Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria in opened vials of EzriCare artificial tears, which is a preservative-free product. Testing of unopened bottles is currently underway.
Not the first time bacterial growth has been linked to preservative-free eye drops: A 2022 to study published in the journal Pathogens suggests that contamination can occur when a person’s fingertips, eyelids or other body parts touch the bottle when administering the drops. And an older one to study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology who examined the prevalence of bacteria in these products found « significant growth » in eight bottles collected for the research.
Even though the product has not yet been officially recalled, it is in your best interest to discontinue use while the CDC investigates infections linked to EzriCare artificial tears. And, as with any product in the study, if you’ve used eye drops before and want to make sure you don’t have any concerning symptoms, it can’t hurt to see a doctor.