Woman Infected by Parasitic Cattle Eye Worm

Worm in woman's eye leads to discovery

Abby Beckley thought her left eye was irritated because of a stray eyelash.

"We had to go back to papers published in German back in 1928 to help identify this worm as Thelazia gulosa", says the study's lead author, Richard Bradbury of the CDC's Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria. It was just one of many as she became the first human being to be infected by the type of eye worm that is only found in cattle.

"Previously, it was thought that there were only two different species of Thelazia eye worms (T californiensis and Thelazia callipaeda) that infected humans worldwide".

An Oregon lady has turned into the primary individual overall known to have had an eye invasion by a small worm animal groups already observed just in dairy cattle that is spread by flies that eat eyeball grease, US government specialists said on Monday.

The following day, Mary went to see an optometrist who removed another three worms from her left eye.

The researchers suspect the woman got the infection when she was exposed to face flies (Musca autumnalis) while horseback riding and fishing along the coast of OR, in a region where cattle farming is common. At a local urgent care clinic, the clinicians did not know what to tell her, but they pulled out two more worms.

CORRECTION: The headline in a previous version of this story incorrectly indicated doctors removed the worms from Beckley's eye.

Abby was 26 at the time and the worms were all less than half an inch (1.27 cm) long. After a couple of days of scratching and more itching, the woman pulled out something that looked like a small, white string, only to find out later that it actually was a tiny worm.

The worms are transmitted to eyes by flies and infect a variety of animals but human infections are rare.

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The vector fly that transfers the worm was introduced to North America from the Palearctic region-an area encompassing all of Europe, Northern Asia and Africa-after World War II and has spread across the continent.

So Bonura contacted the Centers for Disease Control, which determined the worms were Thelazia gulosa, a parasite that is usually found on cow eyeballs. It is fairly common in animal species but human cases are very rare.

She finally got an appointment with eye doctors at Oregon Health and Science University. Standing at the mirror in the galley, she plucked at her eyeball, as if extracting a lens. "They had to remove them as they became present and visible".

"I was able to access the logical part of my brain to keep me grounded through this whole thing", she said.

Compared to those, he said, Beckley's infection was tame.

"We do think she got it by walking through the cattle pastures", Bonura said.

Scientists reported the case Monday. However, they can cause inflammation if not discovered early.

Fortunately, the worms did not cause permanent harm.

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