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‘Oriental eye worm’ infection that makes dogs blind spreading to UK

Thelazia callipaeda is transmitted by type of fruit fly found in Britain

Lydia Smith
Tuesday 19 September 2017 17:44 BST
Dogs in the UK are at risk of an infection that can cause blindness and death
Dogs in the UK are at risk of an infection that can cause blindness and death (Getty Images)

Dog owners in the UK are being warned about the spread of a potentially deadly eye infection caused by a parasitic worm.

Oriental eye worm, otherwise known as Thelazia callipaeda, is transmitted by a type of fruit fly that lands on eyes, feeds on eye secretions and lays infected larvae.

The infection can cause blindness and even death in dogs and cats.

Veterinary expert John Graham-Brown, from Liverpool University, told the journal Veterinary Record that the UK has the same type of fruit fly that can transmit the infection.

“So far, there has been only one strain of the infection round in Europe. But it's been spreading quite rapidly recently. We are not sure why,” he said.

“We do have this type of fly in the UK as well, so there is the potential for an infected dog to come back and give it to the fly here, and then it could spread.”

The infection was first discovered in the eyes of a dog in China in 1910.

Thelazia callipaeda has been known for a long time as the “oriental eye-worm” due to its geographical distribution in the former Soviet Republics and in many far eastern countries.

Symptoms include conjunctivitis, excessive watering, visual impairment, and ulcers or scarring of the cornea.

If severe corneal ulceration is left untreated, it can lead to blindness.

Infections in animals are treated with antiparasitic medication.

Pet owners are advised to look out for signs of infection in dogs if they have travelled to areas where the disease is endemic.

Locally transmitted cases have been reported in Europe, including Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Romania, Hungary, Greece and Serbia.

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