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Analysis of the transmission of Salmonella spp. through generations of pet snakes


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Besides the ‘classical’ animals known as reservoirs for Salmonella spp., like poultry and cattle, reptiles have emerged as a significant source of human salmonellae infections during the last years. Reptile-associated salmonellae frequently cause severe clinical courses including fatalities due to septicaemia and meningitis. Therefore, it is of major priority to develop measures which may help preventing cases of reptile-associated salmonellae. However, as a first step the epidemiology of salmonellae in reptiles must be understood. Therefore, in this study a population analysis of the salmonellae of two female snakes was performed and the pattern of inheritance of salmonellae to their offspring was investigated. It is demonstrated that adult snakes usually harbour a population of concurrent salmonellae serovars. Colonization of their offspring during pregnancy and birth is a significant way of transmission causing 65% of the newborn to be positive for salmonellae. The effectiveness of the transmission does not seem to be due only to the frequency of a certain serovar, because the most prevailing strain of one female snake was not detectable in any of her offspring.