Fungus Outbreak Among Contact Lens Wearers

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Looking forward to taking the glasses off and going back to the contact lens after tax season? Some extra caution may be in order. Recently, there has been a spike in dangerous fungal eye infections, and while the precise source remains a mystery, federal health officials have linked it to Bausch & Lomb, Inc.'s popular ReNu(R) with MoistureLoc, according to the Associated Press.

On Thursday, Bausch & Lomb voluntarily asked retailers across the nation to temporarily remove bottles of ReNu contact lens solution from their shelves. Consumers are encouraged to switch to another contact lens solution until the investigation into the fungal keratitis infections among contact lens wearers is complete.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that a total of 109 patients with suspected Fusarium keratitis were being investigated in California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Vermont. Although not all patients had been interviewed, among the 30 patients for whom data is complete, the median age was 48 years and the majority (70 percent) were female. More than 90 percent of patients wore soft contact lens and 32 percent reported wearing contact lenses overnight. Wearing contact overnight is a known risk factor for microbial keratitis. The condition is more prevalent in warm climates such as those in the southernmost U.S. but the infection can and does occur anywhere.

In a prepared statement, the company maintains the solution is safe, and that the current course of action has been taken in order to reduce consumer confusion regarding the best way to protect themselves. Because the infection is fungal in nature, it cannot be passed from person to person unless they share contact lens solution.

“For more than 150 years, Bausch & Lomb's mission has been to enhance your vision,” CEO Ron Zarrella said an a open letter to be published in U.S.A Today and regional newspapers April 14 and 16. “We find ourselves in a position where the safety of one of our products, ReNu with MoistureLoc manufactured at our United States Plant, is in question. We've done a series of exhaustive tests on the product, and a thorough inspection of the plant, and nothing has yet been found to show that ReNu with MoistureLoc contributed to these infections in any way. However, in the cases of infections reviewed to date, the majority of patients reported using ReNu with MoistureLoc manufactured at our U.S. Factory.”

Consumers wishing to return their ReNu with MoistureLoc can visit or call 888.666.2258 to receive a coupon for another Bausch & Lomb eye care product or to receive their money back.

The company continues to collaborate with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the CDC, major eye centers and health authorities in a comprehensive investigation to identify the cause of the reported infections. Contact lens wearers should strictly follow the instructions and recommendations of their eye care professionals and those included with any contact lens products they use to be sure the will continue to enjoy safe and comfortable contact lens wear. According to the CDC, the best ways to reduce the risk of contracting microbial keratitis include: washing their hands with soap and water, then drying them before handling lenses and wearing their lenses as prescribed by their eye-care practitioners.

Signs or symptoms of keratitis include unusual redness, eye pain, tearing, discharge and sensitivity to light. First line treatment for Fusarium keratitis infections include topical and oral antifungal medications, according to the CDC. Patients who do not respond to medical treatment may require surgical intervention, including corneal transplantation.

Bausch & Lomb's first priority is the health and safety of consumers,” said Zarrella in his letter. “If there is a problem with our product, we'll find it and we'll fix it. If there's not, when we come back you'll be able to know with absolute certainty that we've taken every possible step to ensure your safety.”

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