Abby Beckley pulled the wiggly worm from her left eye in August of 2016.
The worm from Beckley's eye had never been reported in people before, Bradbury says. About half-inch long, translucent and threadlike. He and his colleagues published the case Monday in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
After urgent care clinicians pulled out two more worms and an ophthalmologist yanked a further two, Beckley became increasingly alarmed. I hasten to add, eye worms are very rare in humans, and only 10 cases have ever been counted in the U.S. However, knowing a cattle-only species can infect humanity doesn't make me feel all that much better.
In the end, it was a team of scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that solved Beckley's case, which took place in August 2016. The larva mature for a bit in the fly's gut, then migrate to the fly's mouth, where they're spit back out into some other animal's unsuspecting ocular orifice and can begin the cycle of life anew. Yum!
Initially, the doctors thought Beckley could be infected with Thelazia californiensis because that is the only species that was known to infect humans in the US.
Abby Beckley was the first known case of human infected with Thelazia gulosa
They are spread by a type of fly known as "face flies". "The baby worms then grow into larger larvae inside the fly", Bradbury said.
Eye worm infections typically occur in children and the elderly, experts said.
"I was just pulling these worms out of my eye and there was 14 of them", said Beckley. "Humans usually just don't have flies nesting on their eyelids and eating their tear film without shooing it away, whereas a cow may not do that", he tells Allure.
Sure enough, an hour later, Beckley felt a worm move.
Bradley, who was working as a summer deck hand on a 58-foot commercial fishing boat near Prince of Wales Island when she made the discovery, thinks she may have been infected while working at a Southern Oregon cattle ranch earlier this summer. "The life cycle of this worm is fantastic", Bradbury says. Beckley's case, they said, is a reminder that whenever there is the intersection of humans, animals and the environment, "there's always that chance of things moving across", Bonura said.
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