OR woman has 14 worms pulled from eye after rare infection

OHSU via AP

During the last summer, she chose to have the adventure of her life, so she went for spending her summer on a salmon fishing boat in Alaska. As Erika Engelhaupt reports for National Geographic, it was a worm. When she heard that, Beckley silently directed her thoughts to the worms: You have to show yourself.

It lived for about five seconds, she told the Oregonian newspaper, and then it died.

Over the course of the next few days she pulled out about a half dozen more worms.

"What was really exciting it that it is a new species that has never infected people before", lead author Richard Bradbury, Team Lead for the Parasitology Reference Diagnostic Laboratory at the CDC's Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, told CNN. She urged to the local doctor and to an ophthalmologist but had no luck.

Abby returned to her home in Oregon, where she made an appointment at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. Instead, she pulled out a worm.

The worms cause inflammation and irritation in the infected eye, but symptoms often go away once the parasite is removed. "And they were saying things like, 'A lot of people, when they have this claim, it's usually just mucus, but wouldn't it be fascinating if there was a worm?' " Beckley says.

Abby Beckley says, "I didn't lose any vision, nothing happened, it feels fine". But until now, it had only been seen in the eyes of cattle.

Thelazia eye worms in general are very rare.

Bradbury said this case doesn't mean that T. gulosa is now more likely to infect humans than before.

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At first, Bradbury thought the creature was a species of eye worm they've seen before in California and Utah, called Thelazia californiensis.

So how did Beckley acquire the infection?

The parasite, identified as Thelazia gulosa, is normally spread between cattle by flies landing on or near the eyes.

The callipaeda worm, also known as the "oriental eye worm" is found in a species of fruit fly. "For this reason, I knew we had to get some of these worms so we could identify them". Beckley had been out horseback riding and fishing in Gold Beach, Oregon, which is a cattle-farming region.

Doctors who examined Beckley's eye weren't sure what they were seeing.

Photos of Beckley's inflamed eye and one of her eye worms are now part of the official CDC Thelazia page.

Scientists from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported the transmission between animal and humans. Apparently, flies capable of carrying the worms are also found in NY, but the worm has not yet been found in North America.

She rubbed and washed her eye with water, but the discomfort remained. Earlier this week, doctors in Tampa found and removed a pork tapeworm that nestled into the vitreous chamber of a man's eye. "It's very uncommon to have worms in the eye", Bonura said.

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