Federal health officials confirmed 33 cases of a rare fungal eye infection across seven states on Thursday, stemming from products mixed in a Florida pharmacy that also mixed supplements that killed 21 elite polo horses in 2009.
The patients had all undergone some type of eye procedure, including surgery or injections. Twenty-three suffered some degree of vision loss and 24 patients had to undergo another eye surgery, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health officials traced many of the cases to a dye and an injection including triamcinolone and other products from Franck’s Compounding Lab in Ocala. The Food and Drug Administration tested unopened bottles and unused syringes of the dye collected, finding multiple bacterial and fungal species.
California health officials first alerted the CDC after nine patients developed the eye infection in March. Franck’s recalled dye lots that same month. A single lot of triamcinolone was recalled on Mar. 31.
CDC officials said the investigation to identify the root cause is ongoing and warned doctors and patients to stay away from “compounded products labeled as sterile from Franck’s,” according to the report.
The pharmacy has not recalled or halted production of other sterile compounded products, which chemotherapy and other injectables.
Pharmacy officials said in a statement they have conducted a thorough investigation and traced the cause of the contamination to a dye used in eye injections of triamcinolone and formulas containing that drug.
The pharmacy says it has resolved the issue and made several changes, including hiring a new pharmacist to oversee quality assurance. It says it has cooperated with federal health officials “in an effort to isolate the source of contamination and prevent future occurrences.”