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Opthalmologist warns of Sheep Bot Fly blindness
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DUBAI: An ophthalmologist for 23 years and practising in the UAE in the last 15 years has cautioned against the Sheep Bot Fly whose victim would experience blurry vision and total blindness if the larvae sprayed on his eyes by this one-and-a half inch size insect were not immediately removed.

Dr Prasan Rao told The Gulf Today it was his first time to encounter a patient with the spray of the Sheep Bot Fly in his entire career.

He has treated many people with eye problems brought about by “large tapeworms” such as the Gnathosoma Spinegerium and the Cysticercosis which may also attack the brain.

The patient was an Australian veterinarian who had gone to a full day of weekend hiking in Ras Al Khaimah.

The problem began when on his return trip to Dubai, the veterinarian experienced unceasing left eye irritation; even repeated water dousing of the eyes proved to be not the solution.

Consequent medical consultation with the Medcare Eye Centre medical director the next morning led to the harvest of 17 Sheep Bot Fly larvae from the patient’s conjunctiva (lower and side left eye lid).

The procedure with the use of anaesthetic eye drops ran from 10.30am, 11.30am and 2.30pm after an extensive eye checkup.

“The larvae were transparent. Only two black hooklets were seen from the 17 larvae.”

A review of the patient’s visual archives with this reporter showed how the larvae gently inched around the left eyelid. Several minutes of laboratory test revealed the specimen as Sheep Bot Fly larvae.

“The patient knew at once that it was the Sheep Bot Fly when the lab results showed the larvae were from the Oestrus Ovis.” Rao explained to The Gulf Today that this kind of fly has been endemic near and within the proximities of the cattle and sheep livestock or farm since the larvae home or host is the sheep’s nose “and so it is also called the Sheep Nasal Bot Fly.” The larvae incubate within six and 12 weeks inside the sheep’s nose. These are eventually dropped on the ground when the ruminant sneezes and these develop into the Sheep Bot Fly. The Sheep Bot Fly lives for four weeks.

It was surmised that the veterinarian’s weekend hike was near or within the proximity of a cattle or sheep farm and there was a Sheep Bot Fly that “sprayed its larvae.” Rao said the veterinarian did the right thing when he went for consultation the following morning.

If not, the un-extracted larvae could have led to eye inflammation and specifically bleeding. Worst, “retinal detachment,” wherein the eye retina, which is sensitive to the light, fails and results in blurry vision and total blindness, could have happened.

Rao, fascinated with eye doctors since his youth as a consequence of his frequent visits to the hospital clinic of his obstetrician-gynaecologist mother, advised: “When outside and you develop eye redness, seek medical attention at once. We never know and it is best to have the expertise.”

“Do not self-medicate. Do not use eye drops to treat the redness and irritation.”

He also reminded of hygienic practices like hand washing and for abattoir or farm workers to wear protective eye gears.

Sheep Bot Fly cases have been extensively journaled in Turkey, France, Pakistan and India.

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