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Keywords:

  • Salmonellosis;
  • reptiles;
  • epidemiology;
  • zoonoses;
  • Minnesota

Summary

Reptile-associated salmonellosis (RAS) occurs when Salmonella is transmitted from a reptile to a human. This study describes the epidemiology of RAS in Minnesota during 1996–2011. All Minnesotans with confirmed Salmonella infections are reported to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). Case patients are interviewed about illness characteristics and risk factors, including foods eaten, drinking and recreational water exposures, contact with ill people, and animal contact. Willing RAS case patients can submit stool from the reptile for culture. Serotype and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) subtype of Salmonella isolates from reptiles and case patients are compared. Of 8389 sporadic (not associated with an outbreak) non-typhoidal salmonellosis case patients in Minnesotans during 1996–2011, 290 (3.5%) reported reptile exposure. The median age of case patients with reptile exposure was 11 years, 31% were under the age of 5 years and 67% were under the age of 20 years; 50% were female. The median illness duration was 8 days; 23% required hospitalization. The most commonly reported reptile exposures were lizard (47%), snake (20%), turtle (19%) and a combination of reptile types (14%). Eighty-four per cent of isolates from case patients who reported reptile exposure were Salmonella enterica subspecies I. The three most common serotypes were Typhimurium (15%), Enteritidis (7%) and subspecies IV serotypes (7%). Of 60 reptiles testing positive for Salmonella, 36 (60%) yielded the same Salmonella serotype as the human isolate. Twenty-six of 27 reptile isolates that were subtyped by PFGE were indistinguishable from the human isolate. Of these, 88% were subspecies I; the most common serotypes were Enteritidis (12%), Typhimurium (8%), and Bareilly (8%). RAS accounts for approximately 3.5% of salmonellosis cases in Minnesota, primarily affecting children. The majority of isolates from case patients and reptiles belonged to Salmonella subspecies I, suggesting that reptiles are a source of human infection with serotypes not traditionally considered to be reptile-associated.