As far as having worms, one of the most petrifying areas that you would want worms is definitely on your eyes. Thankfully, this terrifying nightmare is extremely rare, but it has happened before.
A new medical paper titled “A Second Case of Human Conjunctival Infestation With Thelazia gulosa and a Review of T. gulosa in North America” was published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. The paper that was published on October 22 brings to light a horrifying case of an anonymous 68-year-old woman having worms in her eyes.
The Nebraska woman was jogging through a trail in the Carmel Valley area of California in February of 2018. She ran through a swarm of flies and began “swatting the flies from her face and spitting them out of her mouth.”
A month later in March of 2018, she began to feel irritation in her eye. She flushed her eye with water and out popped a roundworm a half-inch in size. She self-examined her own eye and saw a second worm, so the woman removed that creature. She went to a doctor in Monterey, California, who removed a third worm from her eye. The doctor gave the woman an antibiotic solution to prevent secondary bacterial infections, but there were still parasitic worms and much irritation. Then a fourth worm was found in the woman’s eye.
The physician had never seen a worm quite like this in a patient’s eye, so they shipped a sample of the worm to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC identified the worm as Thelazia gulosa, known as the cattle eye worm or eyeworms.
Thelazia gulosa AKA T. gulosa is a “genus of nematode worms which parasitize the eyes and associated tissues of various bird and mammal hosts, including humans” according to Wikipedia. The worms get access to eyes through face flies, scientifically known as Musca autumnalis. The flies do not bite, they actually feed on tears. They are the Eric Cartman of insects.
“Generally, the worms’ journey goes like this: worm larvae floating around an eyeball gets picked up by a fly while they’re sucking down the tears of their victim,” Ars Technica reported. “Those larvae grow and molt in the fly’s tissues before reaching an infective stage. At that point, they migrate to the fly’s mouthparts and wait to be delivered to a new eyeball. Once in a peeper, they prefer to hang out between the eyeball and the eyelid but can move around, causing scarring and other issues.”
The crazy part is that there have only been two documented cases of Thelazia gulosa in the eyes of humans in the United States. The other case is that a 26-year-old woman was infected in Oregon in the summer of 2016. She had a total of 14 worms extracted from her eye that are believed to have happened while she was fishing or horse riding.
“The reasons for this species only now infecting humans remain obscure,” the authors of the paper write. But “[t]hat a second human infection with T. gulosa has occurred within two years of the first suggest that this may represent an emerging zoonotic disease in the United States.”