A teenager in Australia was left paralyzed after swallowing a garden slug on a dare. Doctors found that the tiny animal caused a parasitic infection which spread to the teen’s brain that paralyzed him from the neck down.
Sam Ballard who swallowed the slug was 19 years old when he accepted the challenge in 2010. He was also a proficient rugby player at his school. Medics found that the slug was infested with a roundworm known as the rat lungworm (Angiostrongylus cantonensis).
The parasites are normally found in rats, but they can enter the bodies of snails and slugs too if the animals consume rat feces. Also, people who eat these slugs or snails get sick if the animals are raw or undercooked.
In the Australian man’s case, the infection affected his brain which pushed him into a coma for one year and two months. When he woke up from the coma he found he lost the function of his arms and legs.
Three years later, he was allowed to go home. Ballard made it in the news once more recently because his insurance benefits from disability were reduced from $383,700 to $105,000.
A Dangerous Infection
Also, the rat lungworm can infest crabs, frogs, and shrimps, which ups the risk of infection for people who consume them raw or undercooked, the CDC warned. People with the infection don’t know they have it because the symptoms are barely noticeable, like fever, stiff neck, vomiting, or headache.
Usually, the worm dies in a human host even if the patient undergoes no treatment.
However, in Ballard’s case, the infection sparked an aggressive form of meningitis dubbed eosinophilic meningoencephalitis. The condition implies the inflammation of the brain’s lining known as the meninges which can severely impact the nervous system. As a result, paralysis can occur and even death.
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