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Doctors pull 14 worms out of woman's eye

15 February 2018

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).

Back in 2016, Beckley had 14 tiny worms removed from her left eye. This was likely the case with Beckley: As Bradbury put it, "The fly vomited the worms into her eye". Eight days in, she made the sort of find you'd expect to see in a meandering, boring spin-off to Cloverfield - a small, translucent worm in her eye. Scientists reported the case Monday.

Richard Bradbury, team lead of the Parasitology Reference Diagnostic Laboratory at the CDC's Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, told CBS News that 14 worms were removed from Beckley's eye over a 20-day period. "Everyone asks me what my reaction was, and I was just shocked".

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A close-up of a Thelazia gulosa worm taken out of Abby Beckley's eye. The worms are transmitted to eyes by flies.

This half-inch long eye worm - once only found in cattle - was one of several that infected Abby Beckley's eye in the summer of 2016.

"We never expected to see this particular species in a human", Bradbury said. The major difference being that these face flies, as they're known, love to gobble down on other animals' bodily fluids for nourishment, especially their tears, where they inadvertently pick up eye worm larvae. As this is going on, the flies deposit the larvae into the eyes of the animal, and the worms grow up to adulthood.

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"It's fairly unheard of to have worms in your eye in the USA, unless you've traveled to a developing country". Human infections have been reported in parts of Asia as well as in Russia, Italy, and France.

It's an incredibly rare medical event, as the parasitic worms typically live on the surfaces of cows' eyes.

Doctors believe Beckley was infected when a fly landed on her eye while she was traveling through cattle fields in southern OR, according to USA Today. "What should we do?'" Bonura told Eventually, though, they saw one of the little creatures in action on Beckley's eye, at which point Beckley says they started screaming, "Oh my gosh! They had to remove them as they became present and visible", Bradbury said. "I didn't lose any vision, nothing happened, it feels fine".

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Doctors pull 14 worms out of woman's eye