Published: Thu, February 15, 2018
World | By Melba Underwood

United States woman found with eye worm previously known only in cattle

United States woman found with eye worm previously known only in cattle

Eye worm infections most commonly cause mild local inflammation but, in some cases, they do far more damage.

Abby felt irritation in her left eye, which she thought was due to a stray eyelash that might have found its way inside the eye.

Worms in the family Thelazia are a common parasite in North American cattle, but are rarely spread to humans.

Researchers discovered that she is the first known person to suffer an eye infestation of the worm species previously seen only on cattle, and is transferred by flies. Face flies do not bite, but instead, feeds on animal secretions, nectar and dung liquids.

"The baby worms then grow into larger larvae inside the fly", Bradbury says.

The complete egg to adult life cycle takes about three weeks. Beckley had been out horseback riding and fishing in Gold Beach, Oregon, which is a cattle-farming region. For almost a week, the young woman battled an irritated eye.

Dr Erin Bonura, from the OHSU School of Medicine explained: 'It's a little unsatisfying to ask the patient to just keep pulling out the worms, but that is the best thing to do because if we give her an antiparasitic agent, the worms would die in there but wouldn't be removed'.

She tells LaMotte she thinks others may have experienced a similar infection but weren't lucky-or unlucky enough-to pull a worm out of their eye like she did. "I pulled it out and I looked at my finger and it was a moving worm", Beckley explains. She saw a few doctors while she was onshore in Alaska, but no one knew what to do. They had never seen anything of the sort before.

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

Thelazia: What Are Parasitic Eye Worms?

"It's just really gross and very psychologically disturbing to see multiple small worms crawling across the surface of your eye", he added.

Luckily, after a half-hour, the worms made an appearance.

In the meantime, a Washington state pathology lab, where some worms were first sent for identification, was unable to identify them.

Eye worms can also affect other animals, including cats and dogs, and can be spread by various kinds of flies. Veterinarians treat the infection in livestock and pets with the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin.

This meant the patient had to remove numerous parasites herself.

Despite it being almost two years later, Beckley's story is just coming to light after the CDC used her infection as a case study published Monday. Well, they typically live in face flies, which hang around livestock, and a fly most likely landed on her face while she was in OR visiting her family and friends who have animals.

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