In March 2023, the CDC revealed a sudden outbreak of the VIM-GES-CRPA strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
Previously unreported in the United States, this drug-resistant strain has affected 68 patients across 16 states, resulting in three deaths and several cases of vision loss or enucleation (surgical removal of the eyeball).
Further investigation has revealed that this dangerous outbreak is linked to the use of artificial tears, specifically EzriCare and Delsam Pharma’s products.
Understanding the VIM-GES-CRPA Strain and Its Impact
VIM-GES-CRPA is a rare, extensively drug-resistant strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. What sets this strain apart is its resistance to carbapenems, which are typically used as a last line of defense against bacterial infections. This level of resistance makes treating infections caused by this strain exceptionally challenging.
In the current outbreak, the VIM-GES-CRPA strain has been isolated from various clinical sources, such as sputum, bronchial wash, cornea, urine, and blood samples.
The common factor among affected patients is the use of artificial tears, with EzriCare Artificial Tears being the most commonly reported brand.
Investigation and Recommendations from the CDC and FDA
Upon identifying the link between the outbreak and artificial tears, the CDC collaborated with the FDA and state and local health departments to conduct an in-depth investigation.
Lab tests conducted by the CDC detected the VIM-GES-CRPA strain in opened bottles of EzriCare Artificial Tears from multiple lots.
Consequently, the CDC and FDA have recommended that both clinicians and patients immediately stop using EzriCare or Delsam Pharma’s Artificial Tears products, pending further guidance.
Precautionary Measures for Artificial Tears Users
If you are currently using EzriCare or Delsam Pharma’s Artificial Tears, discontinue use immediately and monitor for any signs of infection.
Reach out to your healthcare provider for advice on alternative treatments for your eye condition.
In case you experience symptoms of an eye infection, such as discharge, eye pain or discomfort, redness, a foreign body sensation, increased sensitivity to light, or blurry vision, seek medical attention immediately.
Alternatives to Artificial Tears
If you have concerns about using artificial tears due to the outbreak, consider discussing the following alternatives with your healthcare provider:
- Lubricating eye ointments or gels: These thicker lubricants provide longer-lasting relief for dry eyes but may cause blurry vision temporarily.
- Eye drops with a different formulation: Seek advice from your healthcare provider about alternative brands or formulations of artificial tears that are not implicated in the outbreak.
- Lifestyle changes and environmental adjustments: Increasing humidity at home, taking breaks from screens, and maintaining good eyelid hygiene can help alleviate dry eye symptoms.
Remember to consult with your healthcare provider before trying any new treatments or making changes to your eye care regimen.