Have you ever experienced “floaters” — those little strands that you can see in your eyes when looking at something close-up?
Now imagine floaters that wriggle. Like worms.
Yes, that is what an Oregon woman experienced in a case reported Monday in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
And it wasn’t just one — a total of 14 worms were pulled from Abby Beckley’s left eye during the 2016 episode, according to the report.
Beckley first discovered the infestation after a week of mild irritation. Looking into her eye, she could see a translucent creature wriggling around.
“I pulled that worm out and I just was shocked. I was absolutely shocked,” Beckley told the Associated Press. “I stared at it and it was alive.”
It lived for about five seconds, she told the Oregonian newspaper, and then it died.
Beckley, then 26, then sought medical help and another 13 worms were extracted. The local doctors, however, did not know what to make of the infection and passed the case on to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
According to the Washington Post, scientists at a special laboratory that deals with parasitic diseases determined that she had been infected by a species of eye worm often found in cattle but rarely seen in humans.
“We never expected to see this particular species in a human,” medical parasitologist Richard Bradbury told the paper. “Until now, this type of worm, Thelazia gulosa, had only been found in cattle.”
And that’s when they put two and two together — it turned out that in the weeks before her infection, Beckley had been walking through cattle fields in southern Oregon. It was very possible, she told the Post, that a fly landed on her eye and infected her.
Bradbury then started digging back in medical records and found references to the Thelazia worm infecting humans.
“There’s only ever been in the history of the published literature 11 cases of in America, so it’s very rare and unusual,” Bradbury told CBS News.
Fortunately, the worms did not cause permanent harm. Rather than burrowing into the eye, they are mostly content to feed on tears and other secretions. However, they can cause inflammation if not discovered early.
“We were able to tell her this was very localized,” said Erin Bonura, an infectious disease specialist who treated her in Oregon. “She was worried they would crawl into her brain,” she told the Post.
Source: USA Today