OR woman pulls more than a dozen small worms from her eye

OHSU via AP

CORRECTION: The headline in a previous version of this story incorrectly indicated doctors removed the worms from Beckley's eye.

The 26-year-old-woman was Abby Beckley from OR, the Washington Post reported. Between Aug. 11 and 30, Beckley pulled 14 tiny worms from her left eye, Bonura said.

Medical parasitologist Richard Bradbury identified the species by searching the medical literature and eventually finding an obscure journal written in German that was published in 1928.

When the invisible irritant persisted for a week, Beckley, perplexed, chose to investigate. Standing at the mirror in the galley, she plucked at her eyeball, as if extracting a lens. Some of the worms were shipped to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laboratory for analysis, where scientists confirmed they were members of the Thelazia gulosa species.

"So I went like this, in like a picking motion, and I felt something in between my fingers and I pulled it out and I looked at my finger and it was a moving worm", she said.

She saw the doctor who, Beckley said, became visibly alarmed by the infection.

"If this happens to anyone else, I just want them to know that I'm OK", Beckley told BuzzFeed. This figure has now been bumped up to three with the addition of Thelazia gulosa. In the worst-case scenario, they can cause scarring of the cornea and even blindness, researchers say.

This family of worms causes pus to pour out of the cow's eye.

Her boyfriend's parents, both doctors, secured her an appointment with an infectious disease specialist in Portland who reassured her the worms probably did not have the capacity to reproduce or to crawl into her brain. "Here, we have someone who developed this unusual infection, and the physicians were interested enough to send the materials to the CDC, where they have extraordinary diagnostic abilities".

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Abby felt irritation in her left eye, which she thought was due to a stray eyelash that might have found its way inside the eye.

During the last summer, she chose to have the adventure of her life, so she went for spending her summer on a salmon fishing boat in Alaska. Flies ingest worm larvae, land on an animal's eye, and feed on tears and other savory juices.

The researchers suspect the woman got the infection when she was exposed to face flies (Musca autumnalis) while horseback riding and fishing along the coast of OR, in a region where cattle farming is common.

"It was a random event", Bradbury said. "I don't think people have to worry about this becoming more common".

Thelazia worms morph through a handful of phases during their life cycle.

It's seen in cattle in the US and spread by flies. But now, Thelazia gulosa is the third.

"It's just really gross and very psychologically disturbing to see multiple small worms crawling across the surface of your eye", he added. Recent research he has led has shown that certain and are flying under the radar.

Other eye parasites can be far more deadly, Maguire said. It is likely, they said, Beckley failed to swat away the larvae-carrying flies in time to stop transmission.

"They were great", Beckley said.

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