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Eating a slug could be deceivingly dangerous

Credit: iStock

The situation of an Australian who recently died after eating a slug should not be repeated again.  The man in question ate a slug at friends party and then died a few years later. It turned out that the slug carried a very dangerous intestinal parasite. 

A seemingly harmless challenge

In 2010, Sam Ballard was playing rugby at the top of his game for his age.  However during a friend’s party he accepted the challenge of eating a garden slug – as can often happen as silly dare between young men.  However unfortunately the man died aged 29 years old in March 2018.  His tragic and strange death has however been explained.  The deceased young man had been infected by an intestinal parasite worm known as  Angiostrongylus cantonensis or roundworm, as was reported in Australian News.com.

A well known virus

The roundworm virus generally infects rats.  However during the first stages of it’s life cycle it can be carried by slugs and snails. These insects feed on rats feces and as a result the parasite can infect people who eat infected or badly cooked snails and slugs. Angiostrongylus cantonensis can also infect frogs, land crabs and even freshwater prawns.

Angiostrongylus cantonensis Parasite, Bar scale: 1 mm
Credits : Wikipedia

A very rare case

Sam Ballard’s case in March 2018 is a very rare situation.  Usually people who contract the parasite don’t show any side effects after a few days.  There are no extreme symptoms other than a fever or a sore head. In fact most of the time, the parasite dies on it’s own quite quickly even if the person hasn’t received any medication. 

The infection was fatal for the young Australian as the virus affected his brain  – resulting in a severe disruption of his nervous system which put him into a coma for 420 days.  More specifically he suffered from an angiostrongyl meningitis with eosinophils. When he woke up, he was tetraplegic and unable to carry out simple everyday tasks. Until his death, the man had to depend on his motorized wheelchair, and his mother, as he endured frequent seizures and could not be left unattended.

Roundworm parasites are found in around 30 countries including Britain and France.  Cases in Britain often affect dogs  but it is rare for humans to become infected. In 2017 Hawaii, there was a lot of panic after there were reports of several cases.

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