Australian man who dared to swallow a slug dies after a rare eight-year illness

Sam Ballard contracted rat lungworm. He fell into a coma for more than a year and developed a brain injury. The former rugby standout died eight years after accepting a dare to eat a slug Image courtesy: Supplied
Sam Ballard contracted rat lungworm. He fell into a coma for more than a year and developed a brain injury. The former rugby standout died eight years after accepting a dare to eat a slug
Image courtesy: Supplied

A man has died at the age of 29, almost a decade since he became paralysed after eating a slug as a dare.

Australian student Sam Ballard had eaten a slug while drinking with his mates when he was just 19. He later contracted lungworm, a parasitic worm typically found in rats (it’s thought the slug had eaten rat faeces and had become infected). Sam Ballard consumed the garden creature in a dare in 2010, Australia’s News.com.au reports.

Ballard spent over a year (420 days) in a coma after developing a rare form of meningitis called eosinophilic meningoencephalitis. The infection impacted his brain meaning that when he finally awoke from the coma, he was paraplegic. He died on 2 November of this year, The Sunday Project’s Lisa Wilkinson reported.

His story is devastating and it raises the question for parents of small children: could eating worms or slugs prove deadly or is this a one-off case?

Doctors diagnosed Sam with rat lungworm, an infection usually found in rodents that can also be transmitted to snails and slugs if they eat rat faeces containing the parasite’s larvae.

Most people who contract rat lungworm do so from eating under-cooked or raw snails and recover without incident, according to the Centers from Disease Controls. But in some cases, the parasites can cause patients can develop eosinophilic meningitis, which affects the brain and nervous system.

According to Sam’s mother Katie, the infection had significant repercussions on Sam’s life, preventing him from feeding himself or living independently.

“It’s devastated, changed his life forever, changed my life forever,” she wrote on Facebook, according to News.com.au. “The impact is huge.”

Sam’s condition required around-the-clock care that was initially supported by a A$471,000 (US$339,600) disbursement from Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme. Their grant was slashed to just $135,000 (US$97,000) last year, but a campaign by family and friends fought successfully to reverse the decision, News.com.au reported.

Source: Time