Worms in the family Thelazia are a common parasite in North American cattle, but are rarely spread to humans. In an interview with BuzzFeed News, she said it felt like something was pricking her eye or like a pesky stray eyelash was lodged in there for a week. But now, Thelazia gulosa is the third. The CDC researchers concluded that Abby got infected from the cattle back home and that this case is unique as no other human has ever been infected with these eye worms.
That worm is found throughout the northern USA and southern Canada, but until now was never found to affect humans.
Moreover, according to Beckley's doctors, these parasites are transmitted by the so-called face flies, tiny insects that feed on tears.
In the weeks before her infection, she had been walking through cattle fields in her native southern OR and was often around cows and horses.
Beckley appeared to suffer no permanent damage because the worms were deposited into her eye externally.
"So I pulled my eye kind of down, like this, and I looked in that bottom little crevice, and I was like, 'Something looks wrong".
"I put my fingers in there in kind of a picking motion and I pulled out a worm", Beckley told BuzzFeed.
Over the course of 20 days, a total of 14, translucent worms were extracted from Abbey's eyes. Beckley had no additional worms in her eye and had no additional symptoms after the worms were removed.
The vector fly that transfers the worm was introduced to North America from the Palearctic region-an area encompassing all of Europe, Northern Asia and Africa-after World War II and has spread across the continent.
After about a week, she reached up and pulled a small worm off of her eye, said Richard Bradbury, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researcher and lead author of a case report on the event.
"The baby worms then grow into larger larvae inside the fly", Bradbury says. She urged to the local doctor and to an ophthalmologist but had no luck.
Symptoms usually resolve after the worms are removed.
"It was shocking when it happened, and it's just fascinating now", she told the Tribune.
The woman's case is indeed a breakthrough in parasitology, as the doctors claim this to be the first case of animal-to-human eye worms infection case. "Here, we have someone who developed this unusual infection, and the physicians were interested enough to send the materials to the CDC, where they have extraordinary diagnostic abilities".