14 worms pulled from eye of Oregon woman with rare infection

Thelazia gulosa - Photos Courtesy OHSU

PORTLAND, Ore. (KATU) – A Southern Oregon woman was the first known human to become infected with Thelazia gulosa – a cattle eye worm that typically infects North American cows, the Oregon Health & Science University said.

The patient, a 28-year-old from Brookings, first called the OHSU infectious diseases hotline back in August 2016 to report that she had “worms coming out of her eye.”

A total of fourteen of the “tiny but tenacious” worms were removed from her eye, according to a paper published Monday.

The eye worm larvae are spread by flies that feed on tears. They were previously only seen in cattle.

Assistant Professor of Medicine (infectious diseases) Erin Bonura, M.D. said she believes her patient was infected while working near cows or horses near her family’s farm.

After about a week of eye irritation, the woman pulled one of the worms out of her eye. She worked with doctors to remove 13 more over the next two weeks.

OHSU states the cattle eye worm can’t easily reproduce in humans, however the larvae that were left in her eye grew into adult worms and started wriggling around, causing her discomfort.

The paper's lead author was Richard Bradbury, Ph. D. of the Centers for Disease Control, and it was published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.


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