Published: Wed, February 14, 2018
Health | By Jay Jacobs

14 worms pulled from OR woman's eye

14 worms pulled from OR woman's eye

Fourteen tiny worms were removed from Abby Beckley's left eye after she was diagnosed in 2016 with Thelazia gulosa - a type of eye worm seen in cattle in the northern U.S. and southern Canada, but never before in humans.

Doctors removed the eye worms with small, tweezer-like forceps or irrigation of the infected eye.

She first felt a irritation in her left eye, along with the nagging feeling that something was stuck in it. Beckley may have been infected when she worked on a cattle ranch in Oregon.

"Dr Bonura was so willing to just talk with me and was really empathetic to what I was going through as the person who had this thing in her eye".

After Beckley found and removed four more worms, she finally went to a doctor in Alaska, where she was staying.

She ended up pulling 14 worms out of her eye.

They are spread by a type of fly known as "face flies".

According to the Centers for Disease Control, humans become incidental hosts of the Thelazia gulosa (the cattle eyeworm) when the insect intermediate host feeds on the humans' tears.

"We immediately thought it could be Thelazia californiensis because that is the only species that was known to infect humans in the United States", said lead author Richard Bradbury, a member of the CDC's Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, in a statement.

"It was only after we looked more carefully that we realized some differences in anatomy that meant it could not be T. californiensis".

Beckley says while her eyes are fine now, at the time she was in a panic, since there's little documentation of people having worms in their eyes.

Thankfully, it's pretty easy to get rid of these eye worms, since they stay on the surface of the eye and the conjunctiva, but that doesn't mean the worms aren't risky.

"Previously, it was thought that there were only two different species of these (Thelazia) eye worms that infected humans worldwide". Their larvae then grow and reproduce inside the animal's eye. Thankfully, Beckley is no worse for the wear. "I was absolutely shocked", Beckley said.

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