United States woman first to be infected with 14 eye worms

OHSU via AP

It was a worm.

During the last summer, she made a decision to have the adventure of her life, so she went for spending her summer on a salmon fishing boat in Alaska.

The tiny eye worm that was pulled from Abby Beckley's left eye.

Beckley became increasingly alarmed. It was red, droopy and inflamed. Her vision is now back to normal.

Over 20 days, she extracted 20 worms from her left eyelid.

That's when Oregon Health & Science University infectious disease specialist and assistant professor Dr. Erin Bonura got involved.

According to the Washington Post, scientists at a special laboratory that deals with parasitic diseases determined that she had been infected by a species of eye worm often found in cattle but rarely seen in humans. He was the study's lead author.

FMI: The case report was published online in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, where it can be read in full. "I could see them moving across my eye at that point, too".

In August 2016, Beckley, who grew up in Brookings, was spending her summer on a fishing boat in Alaska.

The worm may have found its way to Beckley via a face fly.

These eye worms are spread by flies that feed on the tears that lubricate the eyeball.

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.

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Eye worm infections typically occur in children and the elderly, experts said. The next day she proceeded to an optometrist, who found another three worms.

Two weeks into the trip she felt something under her eyelid. And a local doctor had no suggestions.

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. According to Engelhaupt, the worm larvae crawl from the flies into the eyes of the animals they're feeding on, where they transform into adults and produce larvae. Some doctors were skeptical of her story. "It's a living nightmare", Beckley says. But imagine if you were pulling out an actual worm. I was checking my eye every 30 minutes.

"When I pulled out that worm", she said, "I was just in shock". Doctors either tweezed them out or flushed them out of the eye, the researchers reported.

"I was able to access the logical part of my brain to keep me grounded through this whole thing", she said. Her incessant open air hobbies amid the late spring months presented her to the disease, they included. The lab receives an average of 6670 specimens a year, virtually all from within the United States.

Several of the worms were sent to the CDC for analysis. For example, the bite of the blackfly can cause " after the parasite's larvae travel to the skin and eye and trigger an inflammatory response.

Thelazia gulosa lives and breeds on cow eyeballs.

Since face flies normally don't bother humans, Beckley's worm colony would have likely died out on its own if she hadn't noticed the wrigglers. Scientific literature was sparse. Bradbury eventually found the 1928 German paper that had pictures of the worm species in question.

Thelazia eye worms in general are very rare.

Treatment killed the parasite but the chances of occurrence always exists. Her bunkmate confirmed the worm. She was advised to extract the worms manually but even after her eyes were cleaned out by ophthalmologists, she could still feel the parasite.

"I was just like what the hell did I just see", Beckley said. "And not to freak out".

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