A deadly bacteria, three dead and an everyday brand blamed: What we know about the US eyedrop recall

Three people have died and others have gone blind and even had their eyes surgically removed after being exposed to a drug-resistant bacteria found in a now-recalled type of eyedrops.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention released an update on Tuesday alerting the public to a rise in deaths and injuries caused by the bacteria.

Here's everything we know about the recalled eyedrops and the deadly bacteria.

Contaminated eyedrops

More than 10 brands of artificial tears have been recalled due to the presence of the bacteria, according to ABC News.

The majority of cases have been linked to EzriCare and Delsam Pharma eyedrops, which are made by the India-based company Pharma Healthcare.

The eye drops were contaminated with a drug-resistant form of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a particularly aggressive bacterium, according to the CDC.

"Testing of opened product identified the outbreak strain in bottles of EzriCare Artificial Tears that were obtained from two states," the CDC told ABC News in a statement. "Testing of unopened product to evaluate for intrinsic contamination is ongoing by [the U.S. Food and Drug Administration]."

The FDA issued a warning last month urging the public not to buy the companies' Artificial Tears due to the potential contaminants.

Global Pharma Healthcare issued a voluntary recall of the products following the warning. Delsam Pharma did the same shortly after. There have been no known reported infections caused by the product.

The CDC has warned anyone who has used the products recently to seek medical care immediately.

This scanning electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows rod-shaped Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria. U.S. officials are reporting two more deaths and additional cases of vision loss linked to eyedrops tainted with the drug-resistant bacteria. The eyedrops from EzriCare and Delsam Phama were recalled in February 2023 and health authorities are continuing to track infections as they investigate the outbreak. (Janice Haney Carr/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via AP, File) (AP)

Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria

The bacteria is found in the environment, and the aeruginosa type is the most common to cause infections in humans.

The infection most commonly spreads in hospitals and other health care settings, and is generally transferred between unclean hands, equipment, or improperly cleaned equipment.

The bacteria is resistant to numerous antibiotics and has caused approximately 32,000 infections among hospitalised patients in the US. It is also responsible for approximately 2,700 deaths, according to the CDC.

The strain linked to the recent outbreak has never been reported in the US before, according to the agency.

US Cases

Three people have died as a result of the bacteria. At least eight people have gone blind, and four have had to have their eyes surgically removed.

One of the newest case reports described a 72-year-old woman who lost her vision in her left eye after using the ExriCare product for approximately a week, according to CNN.

She started noticing some blurry vision in her left eye for a few days,” Dr. Ahmed Omar, an ophthalmologist at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, who treated the woman, said. “It was initially painless, but according to the patient and her husband, one morning she woke up and she had a yellow discharge on her pillow. And that’s when she started noticing that the appearance of her eye had changed.”

The woman had to be admitted to the emergency room, where physicians discovered a large ulcer on her left cornea.

All three deaths have occurred in Washington State.

At least 68 patients in 16 states have been infected with the bacteria, according to specimens collected between May 2022 and February 2023.

In the most extreme cases, the infection can spread to other body parts from the eyes, including the bloodstream, respiratory tract, urinary tract, and and the cornea.