Sam Ballard death: Australian man who became paraplegic after eating slug dies aged 28

Nick Charity

A young Australian man who became paraplegic after swallowing a slug for a dare at a friend's party has died aged 28.

Rugby player Sam Ballard was 19 years old when he ate the slug in 2010. He quickly fell ill and was rushed to hospital.

He became infected by the parasite Angiostrongylus cantonensis, which is commonly found in rats but can infect slugs and snails when they eat rat droppings. It can sometimes cause a brain injury in humans.

Mr Ballard passed away on Friday surrounded by friends and family, Australian media reported.

Tributes have poured in for the popular man, who was a gifted young rugby player at Barker College on Sydney's north shore.

After eating the slug, he had contracted rat lungworm - commonly found in rats, and slugs and snails can also be infected - and later lapsed into a coma, suffering a severe infection to his brain.

Reporter Lisa Wilkinson, who interviewed friends and family for the Sunday Project in April, broke the news on Sunday that he had died with family around him.

She wrote in a tribute this morning: "Sam was 19, and in a single night, his life had changed forever.

"While doctors had managed to save him in time, he was now confined to a wheelchair, with limited communication skills, and needing 24 hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week care."

Sam Ballard before he became ill

His life was turned upside down when he was at his friend Jimmy Galvin's house, and friends dared him to swallow a slug that was creeping along the patio.

"He quickly became unwell, and it wasn’t until Sam was later in Emergency that he wondered out loud to his mum Katie if eating a garden slug could be linked to the weakness, dizziness, pain in his legs, and violent vomiting he was experiencing," Ms Wilkinson added in her tribute for Australia's 10 Daily News.

Sam passed away on Friday morning at Hornsby Hospital, not far from where he grew up, surrounded by 20 of those he most loved in the world.