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A Young Man Ate A Slug As A Dare. A Decade Later It Killed Him.

"His last words to his mum: 'I love you'."

Sydney man Sam Ballard died on Friday almost a decade after he was infected by rat lungworm, a parasite usually found in rodents, brought on by swallowing a slug. He was 29 years old.

Network Ten

Ballard swallowed a slug while hanging out with mates in 2010.

In this special report @Lisa_Wilkinson talks to the amazing family and friends of Sam Ballard #TheProjectTV

"We were sitting over here having a bit of a red wine appreciation night, trying to act as grownups," Ballard's friend, Jimmy Galvin, told Network Ten.

"A slug came crawling across here ... The conversation came up, y'know. 'Should I eat it?' And off Sam went. Bang. That's how it happened."

A few days after eating the slug, Ballard complained of pain in his legs. An initial fear of multiple sclerosis, which his father suffered, was ruled out, before doctors diagnosed him with rat lungworm.

Rat lungworm is a very rare cause of meningitis in Australia and can be carried by rodents, snails and slugs. While most people who are infected only ever experience mild symptoms, in rare cases the worm can cause an infection of the brain known as eosinophilic meningo-encephalitis.

In Ballard's case, the worm went on to cause a brain infection. He fell into a coma for more than 420 days and became paralysed.

Network Ten

Spending years in hospital with multiple medical complications, Ballard also underwent physical rehab, where the former rugby league player was able to regain some movement in his limbs.

On Sunday, Sunday Project presenter Lisa Wilkinson broke the news that Ballard had died. "On Friday, Sam passed away, surrounded by his family and loyal, loving mates," she said.

"His last words to his mum: 'I love you'."

Brad Esposito is a news reporter for BuzzFeed and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Brad Esposito at

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