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, United States government researchers said on Monday.
Fourteen tiny worms were removed from the left eye of Abby Beckley in August 2016.
"Cases of eye worm parasitic infections are rare in the U.S., and this case turned out to be a species of the Thelazia that had never been reported in humans", said study lead author Richard Bradbury, who works with the CDC's Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria.
"I pulled that worm out and I just was shocked".
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"I put my fingers in there in kind of a picking motion and Beckley told BuzzFeed". "I stared at it and it was alive".
A parasitic eye worm called Thelazia gulosa is pretty common in the northern USA and southern Canada - at least in cows. The flies feed on tears that lubricate the eye, scientists said.
Doctors believe Beckley was infected while she was traveling through cattle fields in southern OR, according to USA Today. Abby Beckley believes she's one of the first patients to report the infection.
"Previously, it was thought that there were only two different species of these (Thelazia) eye worms that infected humans worldwide". Eight days in, she made the sort of find you'd expect to see in a meandering, boring spin-off to Cloverfield - a small, translucent worm in her eye.
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After Beckley found and removed four more worms, she finally went to a doctor in Alaska, where she was staying.
The parasitic infection is seen in cattle and spread by flies.
"We immediately thought it could be Thelazia californiensis because that is the only species that was known to infect humans in the U.S.", said lead author Richard Bradbury, a member of the CDC's Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, in a statement.
She consulted with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which identified the worms as Thelazia gulosa, a parasite typically found on cow eyeballs.
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