USA woman first-ever human infected with parasitic cattle eye worms

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A 26-year-old OR woman has received the undesirable title of the first human to have tiny parasitic worms previously only ever seen in cattle squirming around in her eyeball.

The infection is a parasitic infection spread by flies.

Those of a squeamish disposition might want to turn away now as scientists from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported a worrying first for a parasite transmission between animal and human.

There are two other species of Thelazia worms that infect humans, and Beckley's infection represents a third species now known to parasitize humans.

That worm is found throughout the northern US and southern Canada, but until now was never found to affect humans.

"This is only the 11th time a person has been infected by eye worms in North America, " Richard Bradbury of the CDC's Parasite Diagnostics and Biology Laboratory told CNN.

Previous cases of such eye worm infections have been reported worldwide, predominantly in Europe and Asia and in rural communities with close proximity to animals and with poor living standards, the researchers said. In the summer of 2016 she had been riding horses in Gold Beach, Oregon, a cattle-farming area.

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The researchers said the woman noticed a small, translucent worm in her left eye after experiencing irritation.

She said she kept pulling worms out of her eye at home, and was anxious they would attack her brain. The worms were less than half an inch long (1.3 centimeters), and were found in the conjunctiva, or the clear membrane that covers the white part of the eye.

After they were removed, no more worms were found and she had no additional symptoms.

"Having [other kinds of] worms in the eye is not completely out of the blue", Dr. Avnish Deobhakta, a retina surgeon at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai, told Teen Vogue. What's potentially much more harmful, according to Deobhakta, is any worm that makes its way to your eye from the inside out. Several doctors examined Beckley's eye. Nor, fortunately, has she seen any more worms. "This is nearly certainly just an unfortunate, random, event", Bradbury told Live Science in an email.

"I just pulled my hand back and stared at it in shock and was like, 'oh my god, that's a worm!'" Beckley told IFLScience.

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. At first, they didn't believe her. "I'm hoping if this ever happens again, that that one person can Google this now and there will be a bunch of stories and they'll know, oh, this girl made it out okay". In one case, the dog had been imported from Romania, and in two other cases the dogs had traveled to Italy and France.

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