updated 4/27/2006 5:58:15 PM ET 2006-04-27T21:58:15

The number of confirmed or suspected cases of an eye fungus that can cause scarring of the cornea and blindness has grown to 176, health officials said Friday.

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The updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report lists cases of Fusarium keratitis in 28 states. As recently as April 9, health officials said they suspected 109 cases in 17 states.

Also Friday, the Food and Drug Administration recommended soft contact lens wearers stop using ReNu with MoistureLoc and throw away any remaining bottles of the solution.

Manufacturer Bausch & Lomb stopped shipping the contact lens solution earlier this month and asked stores to remove it from sale.

Initial reports suggested a link between the solution and roughly two dozen of the initial reports of fungal infection. However, the CDC and FDA have said it is too early to determine if Bausch & Lomb's solution was the cause of the infections.

The two agencies continue to inspect the Greenville, S.C., plant where Bausch & Lomb makes the solution. Extensive microbiological testing could take a month to analyze, the FDA said.

The fungus is commonly found in plant material and soil in tropical and subtropical areas. Cases of eye infection by the fungus also have cropped up in recent months in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia.

Without treatment, which can last two to three months, Fusarium infection can scar the cornea and blind its victims. At least eight U.S. patients have required cornea transplants.

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