Among them, 14 people were blinded and four more patients had to have their eyeballs surgically removed. While most infections have been confined to the eyes, the bacteria can be deadly when it enters the bloodstream. “These are catastrophic and life-changing infections,” Maroya Spaulding Walters, who leads the CDC’s antimicrobial resistance panel, told NBC News.
Although many patients said they used different brands of eye drops, EzriCare Artificial Tears was found to be a common brand among those infected. Opened vials of EzriCare eye drops have also been found to contain the same bacteria as samples taken from patients. EzriCare products were manufactured by Global Pharma Healthcare in India and sold primarily online. Medical regulators have said people should stop using them, as well as two other eye products made by the same manufacturer: Delsam Pharma Artificial Tears and Delsam Pharma Artificial Eye Ointment.
The CDC expects cases to rise, though the pace has slowed since Global Pharma recalled these three products in February. The infections are caused by a specific strain of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacterium, which in many cases is difficult and in some cases impossible to fight with standard antibiotics.
Until last year, this particular form of bacteria had never been reported in the United States. Currently, cases have been identified in 18 American regions. There are no known cases outside of the US yet.