Woman pulls wiggling cattle worms from her eyeball—makes medical history

Ars Technica » Scientific Method 2018-02-13

Enlarge / Gross. (credit: Getty | Tim Graham)

A 26-year-old Oregon 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.

Infectious disease experts reported that the woman had a total of 14 of the wriggling parasites pulled from her left eyeball after she experienced eye irritation. This happened in August 2016, although the experts only published on Monday, February 12. The woman pulled most of the worms out herself over a 20-day period, despite visiting several doctors. The translucent worms were less than a half-inch long. Since then, she’s made a full recovery, with no more irritation or any evidence of additional worms.

Several of the parasites pulled from her peepers were sent to experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Parasitic Diseases Reference Laboratory. There, the worms were identified as Thelazia gulosa, a type of tiny worm that’s known to infect the eyeballs of cattle in the US and Southern Canada, as well as Europe, Central Asia, and Australia—but never seen in humans before. They report the find in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

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