Man dies 8 years after swallowing a live slug that left him paralyzed



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Man dies 8 years after swallowing a live slug that left him paralyzed

Eating raw or undercooked slugs can lead to infection by a parasitic nematode called Angiostrongylus cantonensisor rat worm.

Credit: Shutterstock

In 2010, a teenage rugby player in Australia named Sam Ballard accepted an unusual challenge at a party: swallowing a live slug in the garden. The experience left him paralyzed and with significant brain damage, and on Friday (November 2), Ballard died in a Sydney hospital at age 28.

The strange and sad case occurred because, along with the slug, Ballard had swallowed a parasite called Angiostrongylus cantonensis, commonly known as mouse caterpillar, which the slug probably picked up from mouse droppings, according to the UK EveningStandard.

Rat lungworm infection can lead to bacterial meningitis, which can include symptoms such as headaches, nausea, vomiting and "abnormal sensations" in the arms and legs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Usually, mouse lungworm infections improve without treatment. But in some cases, serious complications can occur and cause serious nervous system disturbances or even death, says the CDC. [8 Awful Parasite Infections That Will Make Your Skin Crawl]

In the days after swallowing the slug, Ballard developed leg pains and was hospitalized after periods of persistent dizziness and vomiting. Doctors diagnosed him with a mouse lungworm infection and he went into a coma that lasted 420 days, Live Science reported.

After Ballard left the coma, he was paralyzed from the neck down, had difficulty communicating and needed care 24 hours a day, according to the Independent.

Ballard's story made headlines earlier this year after medical funding used for his care and provided by the Australian government's National Disability Insurance Scheme was cut in half; the government eventually reversed the ruling after extensive media coverage and an appeal from Ballard's family, News.com reported.

People can avoid exposure to the parasite of rat lung worms by avoiding eating raw or undercooked slugs and snails, frogs, ground crabs and freshwater prawns, according to the CDC. Vegetables that may have come in contact with slugs or snails should be washed before they are eaten raw, and people who prepare raw candies or snails should thoroughly clean their hands and utensils later, says the CDC.

Originally posted in Living Science.

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