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Last updated January 1, 2014

Pet Snakes May Be Source of Salmonella

Press Release, January 15, 2004

Jim Sliwa, American Society for Microbiology's Tips from the Journal of the ASM


German researchers have determined that exotic reptiles maintained as pets may be responsible for an increase in Salmonella cases in humans. Their findings appear in the January 2004 issue of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

"Children under the age of 10 years and immunocompromised people seem to be especially prone to infections with reptile-associated Salmonella spp. and often experience severe clinical courses, including fatalities due to septicemia and meningitis."

In the study, fecal samples were collected from pet snakes and tested for the presence of Salmonella. Strains of Salmonella enterica appeared in eighty-one percent of the samples. Although it is unclear how these snakes are infected with the bacteria, researchers believe it is through contact with contaminated feces.

"Our results indicate that very high percentages of snakes are colonized with Salmonella spp.," say the researchers. "To avoid transmission, strict hygienic precautions should be applied when reptiles are handled."

(M. Schroter, P. Roggentin, J. Hofmann, A. Speicher, R. Laufs, D. Mack. 2004. Pet snakes as a reservoir for Salmonella enterica subsp. diarizonae (serogoup IIIb): a prospective study, 70. 1: 613-615.)

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