Published: Thu, February 15, 2018
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Oregon woman finds parasitic worm in her eye

Oregon woman finds parasitic worm in her eye

An August 2016 call to an infectious disease hotline OHSU runs for Northwest physicians ended up being one for the record books.

A woman pulled 14 worms from her eye after getting an infection from a cow.

"It was squiggling around on my finger", Beckley said. The authors report the find in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

The research team initially thought the samples belong under the Thelazia californiensis species because it is the only type that has caused human infection in the USA but they were wrong. Before this case, there were just 10 known incidences of humans being infected with a Thelazia worm in North America, but none of those cases involved the species gulosa. Only 160 cases - linked to species of Thelazia other than the one discovered in OR - have been reported in Europe and Asia, where the worms are more common, Bradbury said.

Most people avoid contracting eye worms because they wave away flies that land on their face, Bradbury said. "The larvae are introduced into the fleshy part of our eyes when the fly is feeding on our tear film, the moist part around our eyes".

Luckily, the cattle eyeworm can't easily reproduce in humans - and didn't in Beckley's case.

Thelazia: What Are Parasitic Eye Worms?

Beckley had no additional worms in her eye and had no additional symptoms after the worms were removed.

A 28-year-old OR woman named Abbey Beckley's nightmare began when she was working on a commercial fishing boat in Alaska in the summer of 2016, when she felt what she thought was an eyelash in her eyeball. She saw a few doctors while she was onshore in Alaska, but no one knew what to do. It's thought that Beckley, who spends much of her time outdoors, picked up the worms while horseback riding and fishing along the coast of OR where cattle are common.

More worms continued to come out of poor Beckley's eye.

In the end, the worms were removed from the woman's eye without any lasting damage.

She experienced itching in her eye that gradually worsened over eight days before pulling one of the 1.27 cm-long translucent worms out. By the time her ordeal was over, 14 worms had been pulled from her eye.

"When I was going through it, it was like, there were parts of it that were so strangely comical", she told the station.

The worms were only identified as Thelazia gulosa months later after being sent to the CDC.

A year and a half later. The whole incident just gave her pink eye, but probably scarred her for life. The Thelazia callipaeda and Thelazia californiensis species have both been found in human hosts, but are more commonly found in dogs and some other animals.

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