On February 12, a research by US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that in a first of a kind case, a psychology student from Oregon, US, Abby Beckley became the first person to have a tiny worm in her eye.
The disease is spread by "face flies" that flock to and feed on tears lubricating the eyeball, scientists say.
"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.
The parasite, identified as Thelazia gulosa, is normally spread between cattle by flies landing on or near the eyes.
The study revealed that the woman presented with an eye worm infestation after sensing an irritant in her left eye and, after about a week, a small, translucent worm was removed, followed by 13 more over the next two weeks.
"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", Beckley explained to a local Fox affiliate. Rather, it was the patient herself who has to monitor her eyes and remove any worms she found.
Beckley was not treated with anti-parasitic medicine because doctors were anxious that a dead worm could get stuck in her eye, which could possibly cause scarring. According to Engelhaupt, the worm larvae crawl from the flies into the eyes of the animals they're feeding on, where they transform into adults and produce larvae.
A CDC researcher says there have been 10 other eye worm infections in the USA, but never this particular type. I ran into my crewmate Allison's room, and I said, 'I need you to see this! The next day she proceeded to an optometrist, who found another three worms. There have only been 10 other cases of eye worm infections in the United States, but they have not involved the cattle eye worm that infected Beckley. "I was absolutely shocked", Beckley told the Associated Press. "It was alive and squiggling around", she told the Post. The researchers wrote, "Occasionally, the worms migrate across the surface of the eye and cause corneal scarring, opacity, and blindness". Later, she made a decision to look for a treatment. In one case, the dog had been imported from Romania, and in two other cases the dogs had traveled to Italy and France. "She was anxious they would crawl into her brain".
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