30% of Eye-Infection Cases Have Required Corneal Transplants

CDC report follows removal of contact lens solution from market

THURSDAY, May 25, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Thirty-seven of 120 people with a severe fungal eye infection linked to a popular Bausch & Lomb contact lens solution have had to have corneal transplants, U.S. officials reported Thursday.

That's 31 percent of the Fusarium keratitis cases examined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; eight corneal transplants had been reported by government officials earlier this month.

Experts expect that percentage will climb even further, to perhaps 50 percent.

"As time goes on, you're going to see a higher percentage of these patients needing a transplant," said Dr. Robert Cykiert, a clinical associate professor of ophthalmology at New York University School of Medicine. "The reason is when we first diagnose fungal infection, we try to treat it first with eye drops, as well as oral medications."

In general, about half of people who contract fungal corneal infections will end up requiring transplants, Cykiert said. A transplant may be necessary for patients who don't respond to this initial treatment. There are also some patients who respond to medication but who nevertheless end up with scarring of the cornea. They, too, will need transplants.

Bausch & Lomb permanently removed that particular contact-lens solution, known as ReNu with MoistureLoc, from the market on May 15.

The company first stopped sales of the product on April 13, following reports of an unusually high number of fungal infections in users of the product.

Some 30 million Americans wear contact lenses, and about 2.3 million used MoistureLoc, according to the Associated Press.

Bausch & Lomb also makes ReNu MultiPlus, ReNu Multi-Purpose and various generic brands.

While the MultiPlus and Multi-Purpose solutions seem not to be implicated with the problems, it's unclear if any generic solutions (such as those made for WalMart) are unsafe.

"The other two appear to be safe but it's still not clear to me if the generic solutions are MoistureLoc or one of the other ones," Cykiert said. "Nobody has clarified this issue. If they are MoistureLoc, those need to be recalled as well."

"I think patients are confused by this to some degree," he added. "There needs to be more information out there."

According to a report in the May 26 issue of the CDC publication Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 125 of the 130 patients with confirmed cases of Fusarium keratitis wore contact lenses and most of them used MoistureLoc either alone or in combination with another solution.

According to the report, the exact cause of the association is unclear, but investigations are continuing.

Individuals who still have MoistureLoc solution on their shelves or in their cabinets should stop using it immediately, experts said.

"Anybody who has MoistureLoc at home should throw it out and not use it," Cykiert stressed.

More information

For more on the recall, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

SOURCES: Robert Cykiert, M.D., clinical associate professor, ophthalmology, New York University School of Medicine, New York City; May 26, 2006, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
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