"Cases of eye worm parasitic infections are rare in the United States, and this case turned out to be a species of the Thelazia that had never been reported in humans", said lead author Richard Bradbury, from the CDC's Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria. Well, they typically live in face flies, which hang around livestock, and a fly most likely landed on her face while she was in OR visiting her family and friends who have animals.
Yes, there were worms in her eyeball (cringe). Before coming down with the condition, Beckley declared that she spent some time at the Golden Beach, a coastal and farming area, fishing and riding horses. Doctors there were having just as much trouble identifying the worms because they were so elusive, and every chance she got, Abby picked them out herself.
After finding one worm, the woman went to a local doctor, who pulled two more worms from her eye.
To treat the infestation, the worms - measuring less than half an inch long - are removed via tweezers, or, in the case of treatments in Europe and Asia, with the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin.
"They couldn't find the worms", she says.
Although common in animals, eye-worm infections in humans are extremely rare.
Actually, it wasn't fish, it was worms ― 14 of them.
At first, Bradbury thought the creature was a species of eye worm they've seen before in California and Utah, called Thelazia californiensis. He was the study's lead author. "But what was really exciting it that it is a new species that has never infected people before".
In 2016, researchers revealed a man in Croatia was the first person in that country to be infected by the Thelazia callipaeda worm.
For three weeks in August 2016, 14 of these parasites were extracted, saving her from edema, conjunctivitis, or potential blindness.
Bradbury then started digging back in medical records and found references to the Thelazia worm infecting humans. An expert in infectious diseases removed a partial warm and sent it to the CDC. But occasionally, the worms migrate across the surface of the eye.
"No one had. That scared me", said Beckley.
The research team initially thought the samples belong under the Thelazia californiensis species because it is the only type that has caused human infection in the US but they were wrong.
"I was able to access the logical part of my brain to keep me grounded through this whole thing", she said. Here they deposit the larvae onto the eye, which then grow to adulthood.
She rubbed and washed her eye with water, but the discomfort remained.
Fortunately, the worms did not cause permanent harm.
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