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4 cases of bacterial infection potentially linked to eye drops found in L.A. County

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Los Angeles County has reported four cases of an extensively drug-resistant bacterial infection that has caused blindness, hospitalization and one death nationwide.

Nationally, 55 cases of this rare strain of bacteria have been identified in 12 states, prompting federal health officials to advise people to stop using over-the-counter eye drops that could be linked to the outbreak.

A majority of confirmed patients used eye drops, according to a health alert from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Individuals reported the use of more than 10 brands of eye drops, and some used multiple brands, but most used EzriCare Artificial Tears — an over-the-counter eye drop packaged in multidose bottles that has no preservatives.

In a statement posted to its website this week, EzriCare said the product is manufactured in India by Global Pharma Healthcare PVT Ltd.

“As of today, we are not aware of any testing that definitively links the Pseudomonas aeruginosa outbreak to EzriCare Artificial Tears,” the statement from Wednesday reads. “Nonetheless, we immediately took action to stop any further distribution or sale of EzriCare Artificial Tears.”

EzriCare said that “to the greatest extent possible, we have been contacting customers to advise them against continued use of the product.”

It was not immediately clear whether the L.A. County cases were associated with eye drops. The L.A. County Department of Public Health is urging laboratories that have identified this bacteria over the past 13 months to submit specimens to county public health officials for further analysis.

Nationally, “patient outcomes include permanent vision loss resulting from cornea infection, hospitalization and one death due to systemic infection,” authorities said in a statement.

The CDC has urged patients and healthcare providers to “immediately discontinue using EzriCare Artificial Tears.” The strain of bacteria involved in the cluster of cases is rare: a strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa that is referred to as VIM-GES-CRPA.

Specimens collected between May 2022 and January have confirmed cases in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin. Of the 55 cases, 35 were linked to clusters at four healthcare facilities.

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