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Florida firefighter speaks out after being blinded in one eye by bacteria in recalled eyedrops

The firefighter is suing the eyedrop company while he awaits surgery he hopes will restore vision to his left eye

Graig Graziosi
Friday 24 March 2023 15:56 GMT
Related video: Bacteria can change form to avoid being detected by antibiotics

An aggressive, drug-resistant bacterial infection has left three people dead and many others – including a Florida firehouse captain – with damaged eyesight.

Adam Di Sarro is the head of a firehouse in Naples, Florida, but has missed five months of work due to a bacterial infection in his eye that he likely contracted from contaminated eyedrops.

Mr Di Sarro had used artificial tears for years to help prevent dry, scratchy eyes. Despite eye irritation being nothing new for the firefighter, last fall he said things began to get worse.

"The redness came on, the irritation came on, a lot of itching, and it was abnormal," Mr Di Sarro told CBS News. "It just progressively got worse, to the point where I couldn't even see within a few hours."

Doctors found the drug-resistant bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa growing in his eye, and sent him to the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami for treatment. A doctor there used an experimental light treatment to kill the infection.

The CDC would eventually learn that the eyedrops Mr Di Sarro was using – EzriCare Artificial Tears – were contaminated with the aggressive bacteria. After the agency posted its warning to consumers, EzriCare launched a voluntary recall of the product. Delsam Pharma, which also makes artificial tears, launched its own voluntary recall shortly after.

Mr Di Sarro is reportedly planning to sue EzriCare for negligence. Until then, he has been out of work and awaiting a surgery he hopes will restore the vision to his left eye.

"That was hard," he told CBS News. "And it's still hard because I'm still not at work, going on five months."

Adam Di Sarro, a police captain in Naples, Florida, lost vision in his left eye after using eyedrops contaminated by an aggressive and drug-resistant bacteria (screengrab/CBS News)

Three people in the US have died as a result of the bacteria. At least eight have gone blind, and four have had to have their eyes surgically removed.

One of the newest case reports described a 72-year-old woman who lost her vision in her left eye after using the ExriCare product for approximately a week, according to CNN.

“She started noticing some blurry vision in her left eye for a few days,” Dr Ahmed Omar, an ophthalmologist at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, who treated the woman, told the network. “It was initially painless, but according to the patient and her husband, one morning she woke up and she had a yellow discharge on her pillow. And that’s when she started noticing that the appearance of her eye had changed.”

The woman had to be admitted to the emergency room, where physicians discovered a large ulcer on her left cornea.

The CDC has warned anyone who has used the products recently to seek medical care immediately.

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