real life

Abby Beckley thought she had a stray eyelash in her eye. It turned out to be eye worms.

Feeling something in her eye, Abby Beckley reached up expecting to find a stray eyelash.

Looking in the mirror, she saw it was instead something translucent, and worse, moving.

It was the summer of 2016 and the then-26 year old had spent the last few weeks working on a commercial salmon fishing boat in Alaska.

“My left eye just got really irritated and red, and my eyelid was droopy. I was getting migraines too, and I was like, ‘What is going on?'” she told CNN.

The mysterious object she ended up pulling from her eye turned out to be an eye worm.

“I looked at it, and it was moving. And then it died within about five seconds,” the now 28 year old told the news outlet.

She desperately searched the internet to find information. There was nothing. Her local doctor was also unable to give any answers.

“They said they had never seen anything like this and then I could see them moving across my eye at that point, too. There were so many,” she said.

She ended up finding – and pulling out – 14 of them over a three week period.

Image: Facebook/Abby Beckley

As the weeks passed, she began to get more worried. Could the worms affect her vision? What if they got into her brain?

When at the urge of concerned family and friends, she returned home to see a specialist in Portland, they were skeptical. It didn't help that the worms would often be scarce during her appointments.

"I felt one squiggle across my eye, and I told the doctors, 'You need to look right now!' I'll never forget the expression on their faces as they saw it move across my eye," she said.

It took a team of scientists at the US at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to finally identify what had been inhabiting Beckley's eye, in a report published on Monday.

She'd been infected by a species of eye worm that had never been found in a human before. Yes, hers was the first and an historic case.


"This is only the 11th time a person has been infected by eye worms in North America, " explained lead author Richard Bradbury, wore.

"But what was really exciting it that it is a new species that has never infected people before. It's a cattle worm that somehow jumped into a human."

The species that was in Beckley's eye is called 'thelazia gulosa' and is unique to cattle, which means it's likely she was infected by cattle near her home which is on a ranch in Oregan before she went to Alaska.

While parasitic eye worms are more common in animals and pets and can cause vision loss or blindness, it rarely happens in humans as they are able to remove the worms from their eyes before they reproduce.

The larvae get there through female "face flies" who feed on their eye secretions, such as tears.

Just under three weeks of discovering the first worm, Beckley pulled the last one out. She hasn't found any since and hasn't experienced any complications with her vision.

"Part of the reason I'm speaking out is that I had wished I could find one article or source that would reassure me this happened to someone else and they are fine," she told CNN.

"If this does happen again, I'm hoping my story will be out there for the next person to find."