Woman finds flesh-eating bugs in ear after Peru trip

Rochelle Harris found screwworm-fly maggots in her ear after a holiday in Peru

A woman has spoken of the moment doctors discovered flesh-eating maggots in her ear after a trip to Peru.

Rochelle Harris, from Swanwick in Derbyshire, was on holiday with her boyfriend James earlier this year when she walked through a swarm of flies.

During the flight home the 27-year-old developed a severe headache, shooting pain in her face and noticed "scratching noises" in her head.

Doctors at Royal Derby Hospital found the New World Screwworm Fly larvae.

Surgeons later said the fly had hatched eggs and had then chewed a 12mm hole in her ear canal.

'Writhing mass' of maggots

"I was very scared. I wondered if they were in my brain," said Ms Harris.

New World Screw-worm Fly

  • It is also known as cochliomyia and belongs to the blowfly family
  • It thrives in hot, tropical countries
  • The larvae feed on living tissue and can cause deep, pocket-like lesions in the skin
  • This feeding can cause significant pain and damage to the host

"I thought to myself 'This could be very, very serious.'

'I just wanted them out of me and now I knew what was causing the sensations and sounds it made it all the worse."

Ms Harris' story features on a new Discovery Channel documentary, called Bugs, Bites and Parasites which starts on Sunday and follows the work of specialists treating mysterious illnesses.

Ms Harris said she remembered walking through a swarm of flies when in Peru and a fly had got inside her ear. But once she had shooed it away she thought nothing more of it.

A surgeon who treated Ms Harris said: "We needed to fully explore inside to make sure the maggots hadn't extended anywhere dangerous."

During a closer inspection using a microscope and speculum he described a 'writhing mass' of maggots and found a family of eight large maggots.

Ms Harris has suffered no long-term effects of the encounter but says she is no longer squeamish about bugs.

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