What Is Thelazia Gulosa? Oregon Woman's Eye Had 14 Cattle Worms

What Is Thelazia Gulosa? Oregon Woman's Eye Had 14 Cattle Worms

An Oregon woman with a rare eye infection that resulted in 14 tiny worms being removed may be the first human to have contracted a parasitic infection spread by flies, a scientific report released Monday said. Scientists at CDC's special lab that diagnoses parasitic diseases figured out she had been infected by a species of eye worm that had never before been found in a human.

It was only months later that the researchers realised that the worm was a Thelazia gulosa - a type of parasite previously only found in cattle. According to the CDC, eye worms are spread by species of "face flies", which feed on eye secretions.

A 28-year-old OR woman named Abbey Beckley's nightmare began when she was working on a commercial fishing boat in Alaska in the summer of 2016, when she felt what she thought was an eyelash in her eyeball.

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.

"I put my fingers in there in kind of a picking motion and I pulled out a worm", Beckley told BuzzFeed News. Beckley says. "That's exactly how it felt, but when I looked in the mirror, I couldn't see anything".

Once the worm was identified, however, there wasn't much doctors could do, because killing the parasites would still leave them in the eye and possibly cause an infection.

The worms are transmitted to eyes by flies and infect a variety of animals but human infections are rare.

Shots have been fired outside of the NSA headquarters — here’s what we know
Shots have been fired outside of the NSA headquarters — here’s what we know

So, should Oregonians be concerned about getting worms in their eyes the next time they visit a farm?

Finally, when she was transferred to an eye specialist in Portland and was able to get her samples sent to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Meanwhile, Beckley said she wants to get the word out about what she went through. "And they were saying things like, 'A lot of people, when they have this claim, it's usually just mucus, but wouldn't it be fascinating if there was a worm?' " Beckley says.

While the Chirikof was in port, she pulled out three more worms. While medication is not needed for treatment of infected patients, the worms would have to be manually extracted using forceps similar to a tweezer.

Previous cases of such eye worm infections have been reported worldwide, predominantly in Europe and Asia and in rural communities with close proximity to animals and with poor living standards. In severe cases, worms can scar the cornea and even cause blindness.

In the weeks before her infection, she had been walking through cattle fields in her native southern OR and was often around cows and horses.

She first noticed her eyes felt irritated in summer 2016, and pulled what she thought was a bit of fluff from one of her eye. At first, they didn't believe her. That larvae then need to hop back on board a face fly to complete its complicated life cycle.


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