Worm pulled from woman's eye makes medical history

Casey Dawson
February 15, 2018

The woman's eyelid was inflamed after being infected by eye worms known as Thelazia gulosa. They said the study indicates that North Americans may be more vulnerable than previously understood to such infections. "And when the worms get big enough, the fly releases them back into another cow's eye - or even a human eye". "Now, we have to add Thelazia gulosa, a third one to the list".

Giving more details on what exactly this species of worm were, the researchers said, "Usually this species of "Thelazia worm" was mostly seen in cattle's in the northern United States and southern Canada". As Daily Mail Online reported, this parasite had never been seen in humans and spreads by flies that feed on eyeball lubrication.

Beckley, from the city of Gold Beach, located on Oregon's coast along the Pacific Ocean about 40 miles north of the California border, said she is now determined to help any other potential sufferers to understand this baffling condition. And her eye was getting more and more irritated.

"I'll never forget the look on the intern's face when he saw one squiggle across my eye", she said.

'Between the first worm I pulled out and then the doctor's appointment, I had seen about four so I knew there wasn't just one'.

Over the course of the next few days she pulled out about a half dozen more worms.

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Eye worms infections are very common in cattle, cats, dogs, sheep, pigs, foxes, and wolves. During this process, the flies deposit the worm larvae into the eye, where they grow into adult worms.

Richard Bradbury, team lead of the Parasitology Reference Diagnostic Laboratory at the CDC's Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, told CBS News that 14 worms were removed from Beckley's eye over a 20-day period.

12 years ago, this particular spread of eye worm in Europe was predicted from the southern part of the continent northwards based on the same evidence that led to these latest findings in NY.

"[I was concerned] that it would affect my vision, paralyze my face, or get into my brain somehow", she said. The researchers wrote, "Occasionally, the worms migrate across the surface of the eye and cause corneal scarring, opacity, and blindness". After plucking the wriggling worm from her peeper, Beckley sought medical attention and was diagnosed with the first documented human infection of a parasite normally found in cattle.

Meanwhile, Bonura was frantically working with the CDC and Northwest Pathology to identify these odd worms, samples of which had been sent to Bradbury's CDC lab in Atlanta. Doctors feared that prescribing medication to kill the worms would actually prevent them from being effectively removed, leaving the dead parasites floating in the eye cavity permanently.

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