Eye worms?

John Smith jds10 at CUS.CAM.AC.UK
Sat Feb 20 15:44:33 UTC 1999

On Sat, 20 Feb 1999, robert langston wrote:

> Trichinosis? Trichinell spiralis may infest the brain or eyes from eating
> raw or poorly cooked meats. Symptoms include swelling , bleeding in the
> eyes. Not sure of the Indian treatment. American folk medicine prescribes
> pumpkin or fennel seed as purgatives. I have no idea if it works.

Another possibility might be Guinea worm, though if your text comes from
South India I can't be sure -- my knowledge of GW is from Rajasthan. You
pick it up by drinking water containing a GW egg. As I remember, the
life-cycle goes something like this:

It's harmless to swallow an egg by itself, as you simply digest it. But if
the egg has been swallowed by a hydra (microsopic aquatic creature), it
will develop inside it; and if you swallow the hydra, the GW will transfer
itself to you. (Moral: always strain your drinking water.) Once grown, the
female worm bores through your body in an effort to find water in which to
lay eggs (I realise that I have no idea how male Guinea worms pass their
days.) She may arrive at the surface through a fleshy part, like the
thigh, in which case you may be able to winch her slowly out on a stick.
If you are less lucky, she may emerge through your eye -- I think I
remember reports of people "seeing" worms before they reached the surface.
The successful worms, however, come out at foot level, in order to lay
their eggs in pools and step-wells where people go to bathe or draw water.

Perhaps someone who knows more than I do could fill in the gaps and
correct any blunders in the above!

John Smith

Dr J. D. Smith                *  jds10 at cam.ac.uk
Faculty of Oriental Studies   *  Tel. 01223 335140 (Switchboard 01223 335106)
Sidgwick Avenue               *  Fax  01223 335110
Cambridge CB3 9DA             *  http://bombay.oriental.cam.ac.uk/index.html

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