As if things couldn’t get any worse than having a worm wriggling around in your eye, doctors at New Medical Centre in Kundapur—where the unnamed patient from India was treated—had to remove the worm while it was still alive.
“The challenge was to pull out the worm live as killing it inside the eye would have created complications,” said the man’s ophthalmic surgeon, Shrikanth Shetty, according to DailyMail.com. “It was also difficult to pin it down as it was moving around.”
Once the worm was out, Shetty was reportedly able to identify it as a 15-centimeter worm of the Wuchereria bancrofti species, a parasitic roundworm that can be transmitted through mosquito bites, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Further testing showed the man also had the worms throughout his blood that will require more treatment, according to the Daily Mail.
So, back to having worms wriggling in your eye—that’s really a thing?
Let’s back up to the specific worm that was found in the man’s eye.
Wucheria bancrofti is a type of parasitic roundworm that can infect humans and disrupt their lymphatic system (causing a condition called lymphatic filariasis), according to the WHO.
These worms make their way into the human body through mosquito bites (yes, really). When an infected mosquito bites someone, it transmits the parasitic larvae, which then travels to the body’s lymphatic system (a network of vessels throughout your body that helps fight infection), where they continues to grow, according to the WHO.
The worms can continue to live in the body for six to eight years and can continue to produce millions of larvae that circulate throughout a person’s blood—which is apparently what happened to the man in India.
An infection from these worms doesn’t usually show outward symptoms—but, according to the WHO, it can still cause damage to the lymphatic system and the kidneys, and alter the body’s immune system. However, the infection can develop into a chronic condition, causing severe inflammation and swelling of the skin, says the WHO.
In rare cases, like the man in India, the infection can even show up in the eye. It’s even happened before: A 2015 case report in the Tropical Journal of Medical Research outlined the case of a 34-year-old man who reported redness, irritation, and photophobia (sensitivity to light) in his left eye—and a Wucheria bancrofti was eventually discovered in there.
The good news for you, and anyone else living in the United States, at least: You cannot get infected with the parasitic worms in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The infections typically turn up in tropical climates, like some parts of Asia, Africa, and the Western Pacific, as well as parts of the Caribbean and South America. So…whew.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go examine the crap out of my eye in the mirror.