Doctors remove 14 cattle worms from woman's eye

Jenna Warner
February 15, 2018

"Cases of eye worm parasitic infections are rare in the US, and this case turned out to be a species of the Thelazia that had never been reported in humans", Richard Bradbury, lead author of the report and a researcher at the CDC's Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, said in a statement.

There, the worms were identified as Thelazia gulosa, a type of tiny worm that's known to infect the eyeballs of cattle in the United States and Southern Canada, as well as Europe, Central Asia, and Australia-but never seen in humans before.

Previously, it was assumed that there are only two species of eye worms capable of infecting humans: the Thelazia californiensis and Thelazia callipaeda.

Moreover, according to Beckley's doctors, these parasites are transmitted by the so-called face flies, tiny insects that feed on tears.

A woman pulled 14 worms from her eye after getting an infection from a cow.

She told Fox 12: 'So I pulled my eye kind of down like this and I looked in that bottom little crevice and I was like something looks wrong, maybe I have a piece of fuzz stuck there. In an interview with BuzzFeed News, she said it felt like something was pricking her eye or like a pesky stray eyelash was lodged in there for a week.

Beckley's GP and an optometrist then removed five further parasites before she saw an infectious disease specialist.

All of the worms pulled from Beckley's eye were less than a half-inch long.

Abby Beckley had been working on a fishing boat in Alaska when she first noticed her eye was irritated and she was suffering from a migraine.

Eye worms are found in a variety of animals including dogs, cats and certain wild carnivores. At first, they thought it was a salmon worm that had fallen into Beckley's eye as the crew hauled in a catch. Seeing it, she too confirmed that it was a worm.

12 years ago, this particular spread of eye worm in Europe was predicted from the southern part of the continent northwards based on the same evidence that led to these latest findings in NY.

Beckley, who had been around cattle and horses in the weeks before her worms were discovered, now holds the dubious honour of being the only recorded case of being infected by this type of parasite. As a rule, people affected by eye worms experience inflammation, along with the sensation that there is some foreign body in the eye. "I was just shocked".

Scientists from the CDC's division of parasitic diseases and malaria say the worms can cause corneal scarring and even blindness.

It all started to make sense: Abby hadn't contracted the worms while on the boat, but on her ranch in OR, where she has a cow.

Standing at the mirror in the galley, [Beckley] plucked at her eyeball, as if extracting a contact lens.

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