Isolation of Salmonella from environmental samples collected in the reptile department of Antwerp Zoo using different selective methods


L. Bauwens, Veterinary Department, Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp, Koningin Astridplein 26, B-2018 Antwerp, Belgium.


Aims:  To evaluate the environmental spread of Salmonella strains in the reptile department of Antwerp Zoo and to compare different isolation methods for Salmonella.

Methods and Results:  One hundred environmental samples were collected in the service sections and public spaces of the reptile department. After pre-enrichment in buffered peptone water (BPW), selective enrichment was performed in Rappaport Vassiliadis Single Component Enrichment Broth (RVS), Selenite Cystine Broth (SEL) and Mueller Kauffman Tetrathionate Broth (MKTTn). Subculturing on Modified Semisolid Rappaport-Vassiliadis (MSRV) Medium, and the combined use of immunomagnetic separation (IMS) and RVS was evaluated. The isolation media used were Hektoen Enteric Agar (HE), Phenol Red Brilliant Green Agar (BG) and Xylose Lysine Decarboxylase Agar (XLD). Salmonella strains were found in 47 samples (47·0%). Most isolations were made on HE after combined IMS/RVS enrichment. Sixty-six Salmonella strains were serotyped, 29 belonged to Salmonella enterica ssp. enterica (I), 3 to ssp. salamae (II), 29 to ssp. arizonae or diarizonae (IIIa/b), 4 to ssp. houtenae (IV) and 1 strain showed autoagglutination. In addition, a 10-year survey (1995–2004) of Salmonella serovars isolated from reptiles at Antwerp Zoo is presented.

Conclusions:  A high prevalence of Salmonella strains was noted in the service sections of the reptile department. Only a few isolations were made in the public spaces. Selective enrichment in RVS was the most efficient. In combination with IMS, this method gave an even higher isolation rate than the International Standard method (ISO 6579:2002).

Significance and Impact of the Study:  This study confirms the importance of reptiles as spreaders of Salmonella in their surroundings. The possible infectious risks for zoo personnel and visitors are evaluated. Improved laboratory protocols for the isolation of Salmonella from the environment are suggested.