The tragic story of Sam Ballard, the teen who ate a slug as a dare and then suffered for it

Anita Durairaj
Slug (generic image)Photo byAlain SnelonUnsplash

In 2010, Sam Ballard was a 19-year-old Australian teen who was sitting around and drinking with his "mates" when a slug crawled across the patio of his friend's home.

The young men who were drinking immediately brought up the conversation about someone eating the slug.

According to Ballard's friends, it was Ballard who decided to take on the friendly dare and he ended up swallowing the slug.

A few hours after swallowing the slug, he fell seriously ill, became weak, and complained of severe pain in his legs.

His mother thought he might have multiple sclerosis as it had affected Ballard's dad. But it wasn't the case.

Then, Ballard told his mother that he had eaten a slug and "no one gets sick from that." However, doctors told him otherwise.

Ballard was ill with rat lungworm disease from the infected slug.

Rat lungworm disease is caused by a parasitic worm. The worm is found in the lungs of rats. When slugs and snails eat rat dung, they will become infected with the parasite.

When humans eat raw or undercooked contaminated food (plants and animals), the worms can infect humans and get lodged in the human brain.

In Ballard's case, he fell into a coma for 420 days and then woke up paralyzed. He could not eat or move on his own and required 24/7 care.

For the next eight years of his life, he spent his life in a wheelchair, suffered seizures, and was quadriplegic. He finally passed away in 2018.

Ballard's case is one where a seemingly harmless prank turned deadly within a few hours.

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Trained with a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Cincinnati, I write unique and interesting articles focused on science, history, and current events.


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