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, U.S. government researchers said on Monday (Feb 12).
She found the first worm in her eye in August of 2016, while she was on a fishing trip in Alaska. Scientists reported the case Monday.
Beckley may have been infected when she worked on a cattle ranch in Oregon. Unlike what any of us (or, let's be honest, me) would do, Beckley remained calm and reasoned that, since she was a deckhand on a commercial Alaskan salmon boat, maybe a common but harmless salmon worm had fallen into her eye. At a local urgent care clinic, the clinicians did not know what to tell her, but they pulled out two more worms.
"It felt like there was an eyelash in there that I could not see or get out". "She was anxious they would crawl into her brain".
When she first went to the hospital, doctors couldn't figure out what was in there, so they sent samples to the CDC.
At first, Bradbury thought the creature was a species of eye worm they've seen before in California and Utah, called Thelazia californiensis.
All of the worms pulled from Beckley's eye were less than a half-inch long.
After they were removed, no more worms were found and she had no additional symptoms.
Beckley's treating physician, infectious disease specialist Erin Bonura, had already been in touch with the CDC specialists. Imagine that, then imagine the stray lash is actually a tiny worm - and that 14 of these worms are discovered in your eye. Once she removed all the worms, her eye returned to normal. Right away, parasitologist Richard Bradbury and his team at the Parasitic Diseases Branch went to work, trying to figure out what they were.
Thelazia worms are spread by species of flies that look pretty much like your typical house fly. "The fly vomited the worms into her eye".
She hopes her ordeal will help others who might find themselves in a similar situation. This was likely the case with Beckley: As Bradbury put it, "The fly vomited the worms into her eye".
"If this does happen to anyone else, I want them to know this girl went through it, and she's fine", she said.