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Contact solution eyed as culprit

Apr 11, 2006 | Houston Chronicle

Reports of a potentially blinding eye infection linked to a popular cleaning solution for soft contact lenses is creating worry among consumers and federal health officials, prompting the Food and Drug Administration to issue an alert this week.

However, it's unclear whether the fungal disease, called Fusarium keratitis, stems from contaminated bottles of Bausch & Lomb's ReNu with MoistureLoc or the hygiene of soft contact lens wearers, experts said.

"People are concerned," said Houston optometrist Sheryl Pickering. "We see a ton of bacterial infections, but rarely see fungal infections. Because of that, there's suspicion it could be the (cleaning) solution."

Since last summer, 109 patients from 17 states, including Texas, have developed the rare fungal infection that can cause inflammation and ulceration of the corneas, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released this week.

At least eight patients required corneal transplants. Nine reported wearing contact lenses overnight, a known risk for eye infections.

Of 30 patients who were able to provide complete information, 26 reported using Bausch & Lomb's ReNu brand cleaning solution, or a generic-brand solution made by Bausch & Lomb.

On Monday, Bausch & Lomb agreed to stop shipping the solution until more information is available. The FDA's acting chief, Andrew von Eschenbach, said Tuesday that patients should be aware of the concern but that there is not enough evidence to suspend use of the product or withdraw it.

Eye doctors are playing it safe. "Until the investigation is over, we're going to tell our patients to stop using it," said Dr. Michael Yee, a clinical professor of ophthalmology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, who has seen two such patients in three months.

However, it's unclear whether the fungal disease, called Fusarium keratitis, stems from contaminated bottles of Bausch & Lomb's ReNu with MoistureLoc or the hygiene of soft contact lens wearers, experts said.

"People are concerned," said Houston optometrist Sheryl Pickering. "We see a ton of bacterial infections, but rarely see fungal infections. Because of that, there's suspicion it could be the (cleaning) solution."

Since last summer, 109 patients from 17 states, including Texas, have developed the rare fungal infection that can cause inflammation and ulceration of the corneas, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released this week.

At least eight patients required corneal transplants. Nine reported wearing contact lenses overnight, a known risk for eye infections.

Of 30 patients who were able to provide complete information, 26 reported using Bausch & Lomb's ReNu brand cleaning solution, or a generic-brand solution made by Bausch & Lomb.

On Monday, Bausch & Lomb agreed to stop shipping the solution until more information is available. The FDA's acting chief, Andrew von Eschenbach, said Tuesday that patients should be aware of the concern but that there is not enough evidence to suspend use of the product or withdraw it.

Eye doctors are playing it safe. "Until the investigation is over, we're going to tell our patients to stop using it," said Dr. Michael Yee, a clinical professor of ophthalmology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, who has seen two such patients in three months.


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