14 Worms Pulled from Woman's Eye. Scientists Uncover How They Got There


It happens to all of us. We feel something in our eye, blink a few times, and our tears get rid of whatever was there.

Most of the time, it’s an eyelash or dust. But what if you discovered the thing in your eye was alive?

Abby Beckley lived in Brookings, Oregon, where she grew up on a cattle farm. She loved the outdoors and the animals so, as an adventure, she made the decision to begin working on a salmon boat in Alaska.

Several days into her trip, her eye became irritated. She began to have headaches as well. That’s when she decided to pay closer attention and noticed other symptoms.

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“My left eye just got really irritated and red, and my eyelid was droopy,” said Beckley. As she probed further with her finger, trying to figure out what had gotten into her eye, she received the shock of her life.

As she flicked at the intruder, thinking it might be a piece of fuzz, it caught on her finger. What she saw was not fuzz but a translucent worm!

With her crewmate’s help, she began to search the internet for clues.

At first they believed that it was a salmon worm but, as Beckley continued to pull out more worms from her eye, the situation became more serious.

“And then I could see them moving across my eye at that point, too. There were so many,” she said as she realized that she would have to fly home.

She rushed to the Health and Science University in Portland for a diagnosis.

Beckley saw several doctors including Dr. Erin Bonura. She waited for the worms to begin their journey across her eye. When finally the doctors could see what was happening, they were speechless.

A sample of the wiggly creature was sent to the CDC for evaluation. The parasite’s name?

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Thelazia gulosa, and Beckley had the distinct honor of being the first documented case of the worm living in a human host.

Unfortunately, the cure was a nightmare. There was no magic medicine to remove these trespassers. Beckley would simply have to pick them out herself until they were gone.

“It’s a little unsatisfying to ask the patient to just keep pulling out the worms, but that is the best thing to do because if we give her an antiparasitic agent, the worms would die in there but wouldn’t be removed,” said Dr. Bonura. In the end, 14 worms were removed.

The worm is most commonly found in cattle. Beckley was probably infected by the cattle around her home. Luckily, she is now worm-free.

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