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Recalled lens solution back in the eye of the storm

May 28, 2006 | Gulf News

Three cases of possible fungal eye infection among users of a contact lens solution, linked to a rare disease that causes blindness, have been reported in Dubai, Gulf News has learned.

Renu with MoistureLoc contact lens solution, manufactured by Bausch and Lomb, was permanently recalled recently after US health authorities concluded that it was "the root cause" for an outbreak of Fusarium keratitis among its users.

The FDA and the company found that the solution allowed a polymer to form around the Fusarium fungus, protecting it from the solution's disinfectant.

The three patients Ahmad Al Abbadi, from Egypt, Khalid Al Khatib, from Turkey, and a British national reported using the solution regularly. The first two are currently being treated at the Ophthalmic Ward at Dubai Hospital, while the other has gone to the UK for treatment.

Both Al Abbadi and Al Khatib are angry that Bausch and Lomb and its UAE representatives did not warn their customers about the dangers associated with the solution, although Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia first reported an outbreak in February.

Both, who were infected in April, believe the solution was responsible, although lab tests could not determine whether it was a bacterial or a fungal infection. Their treatment includes anti-fungal and anti-bacterial eye drops.

Al Abbadi is convinced that he has a fungal eye infection because he was always careful with personal hygiene.

"It is a fungal infection, most likely from Renu. Because where else am I going to get the fungus?" he asked.

The banking executive said the ulcer in his cornea was still not better, despite the intensive treatment he received in Egypt and in the UAE. He can barely open his left eye. On top of worrying the infection will get worse and blind him, requiring a corneal transplant, he is also worried that he will lose his job.

"I have finished my annual leave, my sick leave (quota). Now I'm entering into half-pay, and (in two weeks) I will be unpaid," he said.

Al Khatib, who was admitted to the hospital in April, told Gulf News that his eye was getting better, although still red and watery with a visible white spot on the cornea.

That did not lessen his anger, however. "It is really frustrating when something that you buy, that you pay for, makes you sick," he said.

Renu with MoistureLoc contact lens solution was available on shelves in the UAE till May 16, although a few pharmacies removed the product after Gulf News highlighted the issue a month before.

An ophthalmologist at the hospital, who declined to be identified, said he did not discount the possibility that the solution was responsible for the infections.

He said the hospital had seen an increase of patients with eye infections due to contact lens use in the last few months.

However, he declined to say how many of them used Renu with MoistureLoc contact lens solution.

Gulf News contacted Ahmad Jaber, managing director of Al Jaber Trading Agencies, UAE agent for Bausch and Lomb, who said he did not believe the solution was responsible as lab tests did not confirm the infection as Fusarium keratitis.

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