Ben Taylor, a 47-year-old painter and musician, experienced some very puzzling symptoms for years. His white blood cells skyrocketed, his eyes hurt, lumps on his face kept on popping up and disappearing soon afterward, and a muscle-like thing was like snapping in the man’s forehead. The doctors had no clue on what was causing these symptoms. However, Taylor observed something crawling in his eye and rushed to the hospital where he was diagnosed with Loiasis, a parasitic disease caused by an African eye worm, Loa Loa.
He contracted the parasitic warm in Gabon where he traveled in 2013 to explore the country’s spiritual traditions. Interestingly, Ben Taylor painted “The Host,” a paint that resembles an eye with worms crawling inside it, about one year before being diagnosed with Loiasis, without even knowing why he painted such thing.
Loa Loa is a parasitic eye worm that usually infects people in Africa through insects bites
Insects bite commonly cause the Loa Loa eye warm, carried usually by the Deer flies which are attracted by wood fire and open wounds on humans skins. As the insect approach to feeding with the host’s blood, it places a larva which shortly starts crawling in the body where it develops into an adult worm.
Loiasis is challenging to diagnose, and it’s usually identified only when the eye worm is visible.
Ben Taylor thinks the painting you can see above was somehow influenced by the presence of the worms in his eyes. The artist strongly believes the eye warm he contracted not only impacted his physical health but also his mental one, influencing his creative process.
“I definitely believe that the worms had a hand in that painting. When you kind of look into the nitty-gritty of how much of the human body actually contains your DNA versus the billions of different bacteria that live within us, you start realizing that you’re an ecology of beings that live within us,” said Taylor.
And, indeed, he is correct, as the researchers already proved that parasites such as Naegleria fowleri and Toxoplasma gondii can alter hosts’ behavior and cause hallucinations.