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Salmonella Infection in Illegally Imported Spur-Thighed Tortoises (Testudo graeca)


M. Percipalle. Dipartimento di Sanità Territoriale Interprovinciale, Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale della Sicilia “A. Mirri”, Via G. Marinuzzi, 3 - 90129 Palermo, Italy. Tel.: +39 091 656 5371; Fax: +39 091 656 5329; E-mail:


The prevalence of Salmonella infection was determined in a group of spur-thighed tortoises (Testudo graeca) seized during two smuggling attempts and in a population of captive Hermann’s tortoises (Testudo hermanni) sheltered in a wildlife rescue centre. Salmonella spp. was isolated in 81 of 220 (36.8%) and in 17 of 67 (25.4%) cloacal swabs collected from the T. graeca and T. hermanni tortoises respectively. Overall, a total of 21 different Salmonella serotypes were found. Some of these serotypes are common to terrestrial chelonians while others have never been reported. All cultured serotypes were non-typhoidal but nonetheless many of these have been previously reported as source of human outbreaks of reptile-related salmonellosis. Eighty-two per cent and 5.3% of the isolates were resistant to two and three anti-microbial agents respectively. However, the isolates were highly susceptible to the anti-microbials of choice for the treatment of salmonellosis such as cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones. Our findings confirm that tortoises can be considered a reservoir for Salmonella and that care should be employed when handling and breeding these animals. Tight surveillance should be enforced to avoid illegal importation and prevent the trading of live tortoises, carriers of zoonotic pathogens.