Ick! Oregon Woman Is First-Ever Case of Human 'Eye Worm'

From Drugs.com - February 12, 2018

Ick! Oregon Woman Is First-Ever Case of Human 'Eye Worm'

MONDAY, Feb. 12, 2018 -- Imagine going to the mirror and finding a small translucent worm crawling across the surface of your eye.

The first of many.

That's what happened to an avid 26-year-old outdoorswoman from Oregon, who recently became the first human ever infected by a type of eye worm previously seen only in cattle.

For days, the woman's left eye felt irritated. It felt like there was a hair or something in her eye.

After about a week, she reached up and pulled a small worm off of her eye, said Richard Bradbury, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researcher and lead author of a case report on the event.

The woman went to a local doctor, who pulled two more worms from her eye. The next day she proceeded to an optometrist, who found another three worms.

"A total of 14 worms were removed from her left eye over 20 days," said Bradbury, team lead of the Parasitology Reference Diagnostic Laboratory at the CDC's Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria. "They were not able to remove them all at once. They had to remove them as they became present and visible."

All the worms were less than half an inch long. Doctors either tweezed them out or flushed them out of the eye, the researchers reported.

The worm, Thelazia gulosa, causes eye irritation but usually no permanent damage, Bradbury said. It simply crawls over the eye and under the eyelid, feeding on your tears.

"It's just really gross and very psychologically disturbing to see multiple small worms crawling across the surface of your eye," Bradbury said.

Other worms from the Thelazia family have been found on human eyes before, but this is the first time this specific worm has infested a person, Bradbury said.

"This is the first report in 20 years of this occurring in the United States, and that's about how regularly this happens," he said. "It's a very rare situation."

The researchers suspect the woman became infected with the eye worms while horseback riding in Gold Beach, Ore., a cattle farming region.


Continue reading at Drugs.com »