Artist Discovers Parasitic Worm in His Eye, Paints Portrait of His Affliction

The worm in his eyeball was a parasite he picked up in Africa.
Ben Taylor

The disturbing painting features a segmented worm slithering over an eyeball.

It's not an easy painting to look at. Slithering across an open eye are pale segments of a worm.

Artist Ben Taylor was recreating his own medical condition — a parasitic worm called Loa loa, which he discovered crawling through his eye in 2015.

His painting, called "The Host," appears on the August cover of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, which is published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

"Now that I look back, I realize how strange and interesting it was to have my artwork subconsciously guided [by worms]," he wrote on his website.

Taylor said he began the painting before his diagnosis. His health was steadily declining when he began working on his abstract painting of an eyeball. The British artist had lumps that would appear and disappear. He suffered joint aches, itchy skin, severe eye pain and sensitivity to light. 

Then one day, he looked in the mirror and and saw something wriggling under the surface of his eye. He went to the hospital, where a surgeon removed a worm measuring 1.4 inches. He was diagnosed as suffering an infection caused by an African eye worm. The parasite comes from being bitten by deer flies found in central and west Africa.

Taylor said he has long traveled the globe and was in Gabon in 2013, which is where he thinks he contracted the parasite

After his diagnosis, he went back and finished his painting.