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Bausch & Lomb, the eye-care company which last year was forced to recall one of the its contact lens solutions after it was linked to a fungal infection that can cause blindness, said Wednesday it has agreed to be acquired by Warburg Pincus for 4.5 billion.

Bausch & Lomb came under fire when a cluster of infections surfaced in Asia in the fall of 2005 and an unusual number of victims began showing up in U.S. eye centers that winter.

More recently, the company recalled about 1.5 million bottles of ReNu MultiPlus solution in March because trace amounts of iron could cause the cleaner to lose effectiveness earlier than normal.

Lawyers expect several hundred people will seek damages for Fusarium keratitis infections in trials beginning as recently as early as this summer. Of the 180 infection victims confirmed so far in 35 states, 59 needed cornea transplants to try to restore their vision, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said. Several people allege the MoistureLoc solution caused them to lose an eye.

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