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Salmonella infection and carriage in reptiles in a zoological collection

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  • 1 Wildlife Conservation Society, Zoological Health Program, Bronx, NY 10460.
  • | 2 Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205.
  • | 3 Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205.
  • | 4 Wildlife Conservation Society, Zoological Health Program, Bronx, NY 10460.
  • | 5 Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205.
  • | 6 Wildlife Conservation Society, Zoological Health Program, Bronx, NY 10460.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE To identify important subspecies and serovars of Salmonella enterica in a captive reptile population and clinically relevant risk factors for and signs of illness in Salmonella-positive reptiles.

DESIGN Retrospective cross-sectional study.

ANIMALS 11 crocodilians (4 samples), 78 snakes (91 samples), 59 lizards (57 samples), and 34 chelonians (23 samples) at the Bronx Zoo from 2000 through 2012.

PROCEDURES Data pertaining to various types of biological samples obtained from reptiles with positive Salmonella culture results and the reptiles themselves were analyzed to determine period prevalence of and risk factors for various Salmonella-related outcomes.

RESULTS Serovar distribution differences were identified for sample type, reptile phylogenetic family, and reptile origin and health. Salmonella enterica subsp enterica was the most common subspecies in Salmonella cultures (78/175 [45%]), identified across all reptilian taxa. Salmonella enterica subsp diarizonae was also common (42/175 [24%]) and was recovered almost exclusively from snakes (n = 33), many of which had been clinically ill (17). Clinically ill reptiles provided 37% (64) of Salmonella cultures. Factors associated with an increased risk of illness in reptiles with a positive culture result were carnivorous diet and prior confiscation. Snakes had a higher risk of illness than other reptile groups, whereas lizards had a lower risk. Bony changes, dermatitis, and anorexia were the most common clinical signs.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE This study provided new information on Salmonella infection or carriage and associated clinical disease in reptiles. Associations identified between serovars or subspecies and reptile groups or clinical disease can guide management of Salmonella-positive captive reptiles.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE To identify important subspecies and serovars of Salmonella enterica in a captive reptile population and clinically relevant risk factors for and signs of illness in Salmonella-positive reptiles.

DESIGN Retrospective cross-sectional study.

ANIMALS 11 crocodilians (4 samples), 78 snakes (91 samples), 59 lizards (57 samples), and 34 chelonians (23 samples) at the Bronx Zoo from 2000 through 2012.

PROCEDURES Data pertaining to various types of biological samples obtained from reptiles with positive Salmonella culture results and the reptiles themselves were analyzed to determine period prevalence of and risk factors for various Salmonella-related outcomes.

RESULTS Serovar distribution differences were identified for sample type, reptile phylogenetic family, and reptile origin and health. Salmonella enterica subsp enterica was the most common subspecies in Salmonella cultures (78/175 [45%]), identified across all reptilian taxa. Salmonella enterica subsp diarizonae was also common (42/175 [24%]) and was recovered almost exclusively from snakes (n = 33), many of which had been clinically ill (17). Clinically ill reptiles provided 37% (64) of Salmonella cultures. Factors associated with an increased risk of illness in reptiles with a positive culture result were carnivorous diet and prior confiscation. Snakes had a higher risk of illness than other reptile groups, whereas lizards had a lower risk. Bony changes, dermatitis, and anorexia were the most common clinical signs.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE This study provided new information on Salmonella infection or carriage and associated clinical disease in reptiles. Associations identified between serovars or subspecies and reptile groups or clinical disease can guide management of Salmonella-positive captive reptiles.

Contributor Notes

Dr. Clancy's present address is San Diego Zoo Safari Park, 15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd, Escondido, CA 92027.

Dr. Valitutto's present address is Staten Island Zoo, 614 Broadway, Staten Island, NY 10310.

Address correspondence to Dr. Clancy (mclancy@sandiegozoo.org).