Parasitic worms called Thelazia gulosa worms, previously known only to infect cattle, were discovered living inside an Oregon woman's eye. Yes, you read that correctly. Her eye! Can you imagine? We're honestly getting the chills just thinking about it. Abby Beckley, 28, is now the first known case of these worms infecting a human. Frankly, we hope she's the last. According to Business Insider, Abby noticed something was up during the summer of 2016 while working on a salmon-fishing boat in Alaska. She wasn't sure what at the time, but something was making her eye feel scratchy and irritated
After a full week of this irritation, Abby assumed it was just a pesky eyelash — we've all been there, right? Turns out, it was something far more disturbing. She then dug a little deeper, literally, to find a half-inch long, translucent worm swimming around her eye. According to The Washington Post local urgent-care doctors couldn't figure out what it was! Again, Thelazia gulosa worms had never been seen in humans prior to Abby — so, they didn't even think to test for it.
Image via Abby Beckley/OHSU
After returning home to Oregon, Abby sought the medical attention from doctors at Oregon Health and Science University's Emergency Department. At this point, she could feel the worms crawling in her eye. Erin Bonura, an assistant professor at the OHSU School of Medicine, wrote up a new case report on Beckley that detailed just how astounded all of the doctors were.
The team of doctors sent a sample to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and awaited the results. Because of how sensitive Abby's eyes were at this point, it was easier for her to remove the worms, rather than the doctors. So, that's what she continued to do — yikes. The CDC made some pretty alarming discoveries, Business Insider explained:
"There have been only a handful of eye-worm infections in humans in the US, all by the species Thelazia californiensis. But the worms in Beckley's eye were from the species Thelazia gulosa, which had not been known to infect humans. The worms typically infect cattle when flies carrying them land to feed on tears. The case report says doctors think Beckley may have been infected by a fly that landed on her eye while she was riding horses or fishing near a region of Oregon where cattle farming occurs."
OK, so that's terrifying. The good news is that this crazy medical mystery has a happy ending. All of the worms were removed from Abby's eye by August 30, 2016. Erin Boura, the OHSU assistant, offered some assurances as well, "This is incredibly interesting, and I'm sure it might make some people squeamish, but it's not something people should worry about."