Man 'Rotted From the Inside Out' After Eating Gecko As Party Dare: 'His Testicles Were Swollen up to Grapefruits'

A man who ate a gecko at a party for a dare died after he "rotted from the inside out," his family say. David Dowell, who was 34 when he died in December last year, is thought to have eaten the gecko at a Christmas party that infected him with salmonella, the Brisbane Times reports.

The following day his family, from Queensland, Australia, called an ambulance after he started vomiting: "It was coming out both ends and he was really sick…the moment he started throwing up and it was green, that's when they rang the ambulance," his sister Hannah Dowell told the newspaper.

Hannah Dowell said that initially the paramedics had been hesitant to take him to hospital, but the family insisted. Three days later, he was diagnosed with salmonella—a bacteria often transmitted through food that causes diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps up to 72 hours after infection.

Normally, the illness lasts up to a week, and most people recover without treatment. However, in more severe cases sufferers need to be hospitalized. This is often because the infection has spread from the intestine to the bloodstream. In extreme cases, salmonella can cause death.

Initially, Dowell's family thought he had got the infection from eating chicken but then a friend reminded his partner about the gecko dare. While no one was sure whether or not he actually ate the gecko, doctors at Mater Hospital, where he was being treated, said it could well be the cause of infection.

Mark Turner, from the University of Queensland's school of agriculture and food sciences, told the Brisbane Times that a wide range of animals, including turtles, snakes and geckos, can carry the salmonella bacteria in their gut. "It's possible that if the gecko was eaten, as it was being digested, the salmonella was released, but I have never heard of anything like this before," he told the newspaper. "It just goes to show that things as innocent as geckos can carry disease bacteria."

In hospital, Dowell's condition was getting worse. He was bloated, his urine was black and his vomit was green, Hannah Dowell said. "He was just in absolute agony," she said.

His mother, Michelle Dowell, added: "His testicles were swollen up to grapefruits and there was fluid leaking from them and they [doctors] said that was normal, it was just all of the fluid in his stomach cavity."

Dowell died in surgery on December 11 after suffering from organ failure. His family said he "basically rotted from the inside out" and are now questioning the care he received. "The surgeon basically said that he needed that [surgery] straight away," Hannah Dowell told the newspaper. "We also asked why they didn't give him a catheter and they said they didn't think of that. We had to ask for pain relief for David… He was put into a coma because they couldn't control his pain. We never really got to say goodbye to him."

A statement from the hospital said that it offers Dowell's family its "deepest condolences" and said the case was referred to the coroner, which concluded the hospital had provided "appropriate care."

The case follows the death of Sam Ballard, who recently died from rat lungworm after eating a garden slug for a dare at a party eight years earlier. He died at the age of 27 after suffering complication of the disease, which affects the brain and spinal cord.

Representative image. Dowell is thought to have eaten a gecko as a dare at a Christmas party.