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Last updated January 1, 2014

Prevalence of fecal shedding of Salmonella organisms among captive green iguanas and potential public health implications

BR Burnham, DH Atchley, RP DeFusco, KE Ferris, JC Zicarelli, JHLee, FJ Angulo. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1998 Jul1;213(1):48-50


OBJECTIVE: To determine prevalence of fecal shedding of Salmonella organisms among captive green iguanas (Iguana iguana).

DESIGN: Cohort study. ANIMALS: 12 captive green iguanas.

PROCEDURE: Iguanas were isolated in an environmental chamber, and fecal samples were collected weekly for 10 consecutive weeks. Samples were incubated aerobically in tetrathionate broth for 18 to 24 hours. Aliquots were then transferred to Hektoen and Salmonella-Shigella agar plates and incubated for an additional 18 to 24 hours. Isolated colonies were subcultured on nutrient agar slants, and Salmonella isolates were serogrouped and serotyped.

RESULTS: All 12 iguanas were found to be shedding Salmonella organisms at least once during the study, and multiple serotypes were isolated from 7 of the 12. Salmonella organisms were isolated from 88 of 106 (83%) fecal samples; 21 samples contained multiple Salmonella serotypes. Overall, 11 Salmonella serotypes were identified. In 74 of 100 instances, when a particular Salmonella serotype was isolated from an individual iguana, the same serotype was also isolated from a subsequent fecal sample from that iguana.

CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: Results suggested that most iguanas have a stable mixture of Salmonella serotypes in their intestinal tracts and intermittently or continuously shed Salmonella organisms in their feces. Veterinarians should advise their clients on precautions for reducing the risk of acquiring these organisms from their pets. Public health officials trying to determine whether an iguana is the source of a specific Salmonella serotype that caused infection in human patients should submit at least 3 fecal samples collected from the iguana 1 week apart for bacterial culture.

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