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Lens cleaner linked to most eye fungus cases

May 10, 2006 | AP

Nearly two-thirds of contact-lens wearers who contracted a potentially blinding fungal eye infection reported using Bausch & Lomb Inc.'s newest lens cleaner, health authorities said Tuesday.

The eye-care products company halted U.S. sales of its ReNu with MoistureLoc solution April 10 after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was investigating an outbreak of fusarium keratitis infections in Americans using the product.

The number of confirmed cases of the rare fungal infection has edged up to 106 in recent days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, but it reiterated that the origin remains a mystery. "It's still too early to say what's causing" the outbreak, CDC spokeswoman Christine Pearson said.

The CDC has verified that 93 out of 98 confirmed cases for which it has complete data involved contact lens users. Of those, 59 patients, or 63 percent, reported using MoistureLoc and 19 others, or 20 percent, said they used ReNu MultiPlus, an older and more widely used Bausch & Lomb solution.

Nine patients reported using an unspecified ReNu product, and seven said they used cleaners made by Alcon Laboratories Inc. and Advanced Medical Optics Inc., the CDC said. In some cases, patients reported using more than one type of cleaner.

In addition, the CDC has received 92 other reports of eye infections caused by fusarium keratitis. It said 12 were "possible cases" and 80 were still under investigation.

Last Friday, the Atlanta-based agency said it had confirmed 102 cases and 56 involving contact-lens wearers, of which 32 people said they used MoistureLoc.

A federal inspection of a factory in Greenville, S.C., where MoistureLoc is made has not turned up evidence of contamination, but extensive microbiologic tests could take weeks to analyze.

Without eye-drop treatment, the infection can scar the cornea and blind its victims. At least eight patients have required cornea transplants. Because it's not a disease that doctors must report, it is unclear how many cases occur annually.

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