Australia's Leading Ophthalmic Magazine Since 1975

     Free Sign Up     

Australia's Leading Ophthalmic Magazine Since 1975

     Free Sign Up     
News

Woman discovers 14 parasitic worms in her eye

20/02/2018By Matthew Woodley • Staff Journalist
It’s been discovered a type of parasitic eye worm usually found in cattle can also infect humans, after an American woman found 14 worms living in her eye.

The case was revealed in a report from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which described how Ms Abby Beckley made the startling find after experiencing eye irritation and migraines. Beckley had been working at sea for weeks and it wasn’t until the 28-year-old returned to shore that the full scope of her problem was revealed.


"I pulled down the bottom of my eye and noticed that my skin looked weird there. So I put my fingers in with a sort of a plucking motion, and a worm came out."
Abby Beckley

“I pulled down the bottom of my eye and noticed that my skin looked weird there. So I put my fingers in with a sort of a plucking motion, and a worm came out,” she told CNN.

After removing the one centimetre worm, Beckley proceeded directly to the Oregon Health and Science University, where some of the removed worms were sent to the CDC for identification.

Beckley was not treated with anti-parasitic medicine, as doctors were worried a dead worm may remain in the eye and cause possible scarring. Instead, she was required to extract the worms as they appeared and return to the university for frequent vision tests and eye washes.

“I just kept pulling the worms out of my eye at home, but when I went to the office, they would flush, and nothing would come out. They were trying to figure out what to do because there was no road map, no protocol for this,” she said.

The last worm was removed 20 days after Beckley discovered the first intruder, but that was not the end of the story – testing at the CDC revealed a worm called Thelazia gulosa, which had previously only been found in cattle.


We had to go back to papers published in German back in 1928 to help identify this worm.
Dr Richard Bradbury, study author

“We immediately thought it could be Thelazia californiensis because that is the only species that was known to infect humans in the US. It was only after we looked more carefully that we realised some differences in anatomy that meant it could not be T. californiensis. We had to go back to papers published in German back in 1928 to help identify this worm as Thelazia gulosa,” study author Dr Richard Bradbury said.

“Previously, it was thought that there were only two different species of these [Thelazia] eye worms that infected humans worldwide. Now, we have to add Thelazia gulosa, a third one to the list.”

largeleaderboard_0618
advertisement

Bradbury added that most of the time, people who infected with these eye worms experience inflammation and the sensation that there is some type of foreign body in the eye, but that symptoms typically resolve after they are removed. However, he also noted that worms will occasionally migrate across the surface of the eye, causing scarring of the cornea and even blindness.

Meanwhile, another eye worm species, Thelazia callipaeda, has begun infecting people in Europe having previously been restricted to Asia. The worm is transmitted by a common fruit fly, Phortica variegata.

Twelve years ago researchers correctly predicted the spread this type of eye worm from southern Europe to many other geographical areas on the continent based on the presence of the fruit flies that can carry the parasite.

largeleaderboard_0618
advertisement


standardlarge_0618
advertisement
Editor's Suggestion
Hot Stories

AND/OR
 

Subscribe for Insight in your Inbox

Get Insight with the latest in industry news, trends, new products, services and equipment!