An Oregon woman has become the first person worldwide known to have had an eye infestation by a tiny worm species previously seen only in cattle that is spread by flies that feed on eyeball lubrication, US government researchers said on Monday.
Beckley was diagnosed with Thelazia gulosa - a type of eye worm usually seen in cattle in the northern US and southern Canada, but never before in humans.
Medical parasitologist Richard Bradbury told The Washington Post: "We never expected to see this particular species in a human".
The flies ingest the worm larvae and land on animal's eyes where the flied feed on tears and other secretions.
Beckley had been fishing and riding horses in a coastal, cattle-farming area in Oregon.
Abby, from Gold Beach, Oregon, went to a doctor who pulled out FOUR moreworms.
"So I pulled my eye kind of down, like this, and I looked in that bottom little crevice, and I was like, 'Something looks wrong". Beckley says. "That's exactly how it felt, but when I looked in the mirror, I couldn't see anything".
Beckley was not treated with anti-parasitic medicine because doctors were anxious that a dead worm could get stuck in her eye, which could possibly cause scarring. Some of them were pretty long, about half the length of a paper clip. The researchers there examined her eyes for quite some time but eventually, they observed eye worms moving on the woman's eye.
Eye worms are found in an assortment of creatures including mutts, felines and certain wild carnivores. "And when the worms get big enough, the fly releases them back into another cow's eye - or even a human eye". She worked with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on treatment of the infection, and the study includes warnings that physicians should be aware it could happen again. Seeing it, she too confirmed that it was a worm.
The tiny eye worm that was pulled from Abby Beckley's left eye. She visited doctors, but removed most of the additional worms herself during the following few weeks. "I was just shocked". The researchers wrote, "Occasionally, the worms migrate across the surface of the eye and cause corneal scarring, opacity, and blindness". Human infections have been reported in parts of Asia as well as in Russia, Italy, and France.
For days, the woman's left eye felt irritated. It is believed that she came into contact with the parasites here. In both cases, it's typically children and the elderly that are infected as they have a harder time keeping flies out of their eyes.
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