Tongue Worm in Human Eye

Tongue Worm in Human Eye
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A case report (and video) of the worm-like, bloodsucking parasite Linguatula serrata, found in organ meats, that can migrate through the intestinal wall, into the bloodstream, and then inside one’s eyeball.

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Let me start by saying this one is not for the squeamish. For years, I’ve shared many a foodborne malady. When people think foodborne illness, they tend to think of tummy flu. Not toxic megacolon, or sexually transmitted fish toxins, or any of the other bizarre case reports I run across of things one can contract at the dinner table.

Well, published recently in the official CDC journal, Emerging Infectious Diseases, I think I found something that takes the cake. It wasn’t the sushi worm found living in someone’s stomach, or a swallowed fish bone that came poking out. No, it was Linguatula serrata, tongue worm in human eye.

Evidently, if we prefer our viscera poorly cooked, we can swallow eggs that hatch in our intestines into wormlike, bloodsucking parasites that burrow out through the intestinal wall, and then migrate throughout our body. Rarely, they can tunnel into the eye. And when they say tongue worm in human eye, they mean like literally swimming around inside the eyeball. And yes, they’ve got video.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Serena

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Dennis Tappe and Dietrich W. Büttner.

Let me start by saying this one is not for the squeamish. For years, I’ve shared many a foodborne malady. When people think foodborne illness, they tend to think of tummy flu. Not toxic megacolon, or sexually transmitted fish toxins, or any of the other bizarre case reports I run across of things one can contract at the dinner table.

Well, published recently in the official CDC journal, Emerging Infectious Diseases, I think I found something that takes the cake. It wasn’t the sushi worm found living in someone’s stomach, or a swallowed fish bone that came poking out. No, it was Linguatula serrata, tongue worm in human eye.

Evidently, if we prefer our viscera poorly cooked, we can swallow eggs that hatch in our intestines into wormlike, bloodsucking parasites that burrow out through the intestinal wall, and then migrate throughout our body. Rarely, they can tunnel into the eye. And when they say tongue worm in human eye, they mean like literally swimming around inside the eyeball. And yes, they’ve got video.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Serena

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Dennis Tappe and Dietrich W. Büttner.

Doctor's Note

Other not-for-the-squeamish videos include Cheese Mites and MaggotsToxic Megacolon SuperbugBrain Parasites in MeatAllergenic Fish Worms; and Pork Tapeworms on the Brain. The one I mentioned about the fish toxins that spread through intercourse is Sexually Transmitted Fish Toxin

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12 responses to “Tongue Worm in Human Eye

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        1. Dr. J,
          Yes, for many years I have told my patients you always want to be ‘boring/Normal’ when you go to the doctor.   You never want to hear, “Wow, you are a fascinating case!” or, “I have never seen anything this bad before.”
          Or the proverbial, “Oops” during a procedure, but to see a parasite swimming around in the anterior chamber of the eye is truly astonishing.  It will sure make me think twice when I get another patient c/o “bugs” in their eyes, which are usually a normal part of aging (floaters).




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          1. Dr Dynamic,
            Yes – for the patient boring is better. A patient reminded me yesterday, that I last time called her seizures “interesting”….

            Yes – never thought that a differential diagnosis for mouches volantes is worm in the eye….

            Go vegan!




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    1. Dr. G,  Love the Artistic Radioactive artwork of Ketchup and Mustard atop the Charbroiled Pink-Slime sandwich.
      I give it “Glowing” reviews ;-}




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  1. Something fascinating as well is the Paul Harvey of the story:

    Surgical removal of the parasite was complicated because of high mobility of the parasite inside the anterior chamber. The worm escaped into the posterior segment of the eye where it was found, after lens removal and complete vitrectomy, in a recess of the ciliary body. A viable parasite was extracted and transferred to physiologic saline. One month later, the eye was completely free of irritation, and 3 months later an artificial intraocular lens (ARTISAN; OPHTEC BV, Groningen, the Netherlands) was implanted. Final visual acuity was 1.0 Snellen.
    http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/17/5/10-0790_article.htm

    And that is The Rest of the Story.  Quite impressive actually!




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  2. Hi Drs.. Ok… All of this is “fascinating”? Sure, for you. All I have to say is ewwww…. And ya, it could have been avoided. I am certain that this is not the bright lights and 15 minutes of fame that this person wanted. Just my $0.02.




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