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Evidence for the Transmission of Salmonella from Reptiles to Children in Germany, July 2010 to October 2011

This study examines the Salmonella status in reptiles kept in households with children suffering from gastroenteritis due to an exotic Salmonella serovar, to obtain information on possible transmission paths.

A number of affected households (n=79) were contacted, and almost half (34/79) comprised at least one reptile in the home. Of the households, 19 were further studied, whereby a total of 36 reptiles were investigated. Samples were taken from the reptiles including the oral cavity, the cloaca, the skin and, in the case of lizards, the stomach, and isolation of Salmonella strains was performed using repeated enrichment and typing. Where the Salmonella serovars of the infected child and the reptile were identical, typing was followed by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps) constituted 19 of 36 examined reptiles.

Altogether 319 Salmonella isolates were investigated and 24 different serovars identified in the reptiles. In 15 of 19 households, an identical serovar to the human case was confirmed in at least one reptile (including 16 of all 19 bearded dragons examined). The results demonstrate that reptiles and especially bearded dragons shed various Salmonella serovars including those isolated from infected children in the respective households.

Hygiene protocols and parents’ education are therefore highly necessary to reduce the risk of transmission. From a terminological point of view, we propose to call such infections ‘Reptile-Exotic-Pet-Associated-Salmonellosis’ (REPAS).

Author: Pees M, Rabsch W, Plenz B, Fruth A, Prager R, Simon S, Schmidt V, Munch S, Braun PG

Citation: Eurosurveillance Edition 2013: Volume 18/ Issue 46 Article 4, Euro Surveill. 2013;18(46):pii=20634.

Published: 21/12/2012

Publication Type: Journal article

Publisher: Eurosurveillance