This Guy Took a Dare to Eat a Gecko and Lost His Life


We all know that games of truth or dare can get out of hand on occasion, but the family of David Dowell – a husband and father of three – never expected his taking a Christmas party dare to eat a gecko might cost him his life.

The healthy 34-year-old ingested the animal on December 1, and by December 3, he was not feeling at all well.

“It was coming out both ends,” his sister Hannah told The Sydney Morning Herald. “He was really sick and the moment he started throwing up it was green. That’s when they rang the ambulance.”


Brisbane doctors originally believed he had a simple stomach bug, or maybe a hangover, but the family insisted it must be more and begged them not to discharge him. Dowell was admitted and eventually diagnosed with a Salmonella infection – one that began to worsen significantly during his hospital stay.

Little known fact: even though Salmonella is typically acquired by the mishandling of food, according to the CDC reptiles can also transfer the microbe to humans.

“Contact with reptiles can be a source of human Salmonella infections. Reptiles can be carrying Salmonella bacteria but appear healthy and clean and show no signs of illness.”

In fact that’s why turtles under a certain size are banned from being sold as pets – little kids kept getting salmonella.

Though it’s not clear whether David Dowell actually ate the gecko or simply handled it (stories from the party state either as having happened), there was no doubt he was in serious trouble. His mother told the newspaper that “his testicles were swollen up to grapefruits and there was fluid leaking from them. The doctors said that was normal, it was just all all of the fluid in his stomach cavity.”

Salmonella causes illness in around 1.2 million people in the US every year, and while most cases clear up on their own within a week, around 23,000 people are hospitalized and 450 don’t recover.


Sadly, Dowell found himself in the latter category. After spending time in a medically-induced coma, he passed away during emergency surgery 10 days after the incident with the gecko.

Though doctors never said for sure that it was the interaction that cost him his life, his partner, Allira, says “ingestion of a gecko” is what is listed on the “actual death certificate.”

The death of their loved one was sudden and unexpected, and the family is still reeling from the entire episode. Though they’ve opened an inquest into how things were handled at the hospital, they realize they may never have answers.


Allira does have some advice for anyone out there who thinks stunts like the one David pulled are all in good fun: “If you’re thinking of performing a similar stunt, don’t.”

Solid advice, if you ask me.

And one more reason to avoid the local wildlife whenever possible.