A 27-year-old British woman on a flight home from vacation in Peru was in what she described as “excruciating, stabbing pain.” She would later learn she picked up a horrifying parasite while traveling — one she even began to hear inside her head, according to the U.K.’s Daily Mail.
In an upcoming episode of the Discovery Channel’s “Bugs, Bites & Parasites: Tropical Diseases Uncovered” airing in the U.K. starting July 21, Rachelle Harris’ case is featured.
When visiting the doctor to figure out what was wrong when she was home, Harris said the technician spent “quite a lot of time looking in my ear without saying what was in there.” After an hour, Harris’ mother asked what it was.
“And the doctor said, if you don’t mind, I’d prefer to go and speak to the registrar before I tell you anything,” Harris recalled. “And my mom said ‘please tell us,’ and I said ‘no please, I want to know.’ And that’s when she said ‘you’ve got maggots in your ear.'”
Harris said she was scared, not knowing how serious the situation was and questioning if they could be eating her brain. She was given a CT scan to evaluate the damage and how many maggots there were.
The maggots were found to have chewed a 12 mm hole in her ear canal, but missed a vital nerve that controls the muscles in her face.
Harris went into surgery and one her doctors described opening the hole in her ear to see a “writhing mass of maggots.”
Watch the Discovery Channel clip with actual footage of Harris’ surgery showing the maggots (Content warning: some potentially graphic footage):
The Daily Mail reported the maggots being of a New World screwworm fly, scientifically named Cochliomyia.
Discovery’s show follows medical staff at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the Royal Liverpool Hospital and some of the cases they encounter.
“Stories include patients with Trypanosomiasis which sends its victims into a zombie-like trance, to maggots laying eggs in a holidaymaker’s ear and the shocking results of a Liver Fluke disease, which grows armies of parasites under the skin,” the show’s description stated. “The result is tales of breath taking medical detective work, gripping human stories, gruesome illnesses and an epic, global battle to save countless millions of lives.”