A woman in Oregon may have made history, but not quite in the best way – she may be the first person to have ever contracted a parasitic infection spread by flies, resulting in 14 tiny worms being pulled out of her eye.
Abby Beckley, 26, had the worms taken out of her eye in August 2016, according to scientists. Beckley was diagnosed with Thelazia gulosa, a kind of eye worm generally found in cattle in the northern United States and Southern Canada, but never before in humans, Fox News reports.
The disease is spread by “face flies” that flock to and feed on tears lubricating the eyeball, scientists say. Beckley had been out horseback riding and fishing in Gold Beach, Oregon, which is a cattle-farming region. Her eye felt irritated for a week, and she suddenly pulled out a worm.
Beckley said, “So I pulled my eye kind of down like this and I looked in that bottom little crevice and I was like something looks wrong, maybe I have a piece of fuzz stuck there. So I went like this, in like a picking motion, and I felt something in between my fingers and I pulled it out and I looked at my finger and it was a moving worm.”
Erin Bonura, an assistant professor of medicine at the Oregon Health & Science University, told Beckley to keep picking the worms out, because if she took medications, the worms would die in her eye and could not be removed.
The parasites were translucent and around half an inch long. After removing all the worms, Beckley had no additional symptoms; neither did the worms recur.
When I was going through it, it was like, there were parts of it that were so strangely comical. But then there were parts of it that just felt like I was living in a nightmare.
Eye worms can also affect other animals, including cats and dogs, and can be spread by various kinds of flies.
The study was published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.