National Geographic reports that a teenager in Australia swallowed a slug on a dare. It left him in a coma for more than a year and paralyzed from the neck down. This is nauseating to even type, but don’t eat slugs. Aside from the obvious vomit inducing reasons, they could carry the brain infesting rat lungworm.
Rat lungworm is found in Africa, Australia, the Caribbean, and the southern U.S. It’s also starting to spread to new places. Hawaii reported six cases over three months last year, where it had previously reported only two cases in the last ten years. According to the Hawaii Department of Health, rat lungworm is a disease the affects the brain and spinal cord. It’s a type of roundworm that is only found in rodents but can be passed through their larvae:
Snails, slugs, and certain other animals (including freshwater shrimp, land crabs, and frogs) can become infected by ingesting this larvae…Humans can become infected with A. cantonensis if they eat (intentionally or otherwise) a raw or undercooked infected intermediate host, thereby ingesting the parasite.
The infection can can cause a rare type of meningitis which can lead to brain damage, paralysis, or stroke. Some people may show no symptoms while others may have severe symptoms. They may include severe headache, neck stiffness, tingling or painful feelings of the skin or extremities, and light sensitivity. Symptoms generally last two to eight weeks. There is no specific treatment for rat lungworm.
If people dare you to eat bugs, gastropods, or other unsightly creatures, just say no. Or as National Geographic says, “As rat lungworm reaches new parts of the world, experts say we’re the ones who are going to have to adapt. And a good first step is not eating raw gastropods.”