Salmonella from geckos

When I tell people lizards and snakes are Salmonella factories, they look at me like I’m hysterical.

Maybe they’ll listen to Scott Weese, a veterinary professor at the University of Guelph and author of the Worms and Germs Blog.

Weese writes, contact with reptiles such as geckos has been a known risk factor for human salmonellosis for years. That’s a big part of the reason for recommending that high risk people (i.e. those less than 5 years of age, over 65 years of age, pregnant, or immunocompromised) have no contact (direct or indirect) with reptiles.

In this outbreak (Koski et al, Zoonoses and Public Health 2019), Salmonella Fluntern was the cause of infection in 12 people in 4 US states (Oregon, California, Iowa and New York). The median age of those affected was 5 years, with a range from less than 1 to 58 years of age (so much for the “keep young kids away from reptiles” recommendation). No one died, but 3 people (25%) were hospitalized. Most people reported contact with leopard geckos, and the same bacterium was isolated from a gecko owned by one affected person.

No common source of geckos was identified and their bacteria were different enough genetically that a point source isn’t likely. Other gecko- or reptile-associated Salmonella Fluntern isolates were identified in bacterial databases from Europe. So, this suggests that Salmonella Fluntern is a reptile (or even gecko) associated strain, posing a broad risk to reptile/gecko owners.

This report doesn’t change any recommendations, but just shows (again) the issues that are involved. Reptiles shouldn’t be in high risk households. People with reptiles need to use some basic hygiene precautions to reduce their risk of infection. It’s not rocket science, but it’s often neglected.

More information about reducing the risk of infection associated with reptiles can be found in on the Worms & Germs Resources – Pets page.

Darwin parents urged to vacuum up gecko and frog poo amid spike in Salmonella cases

Darwin is in northern Australia.

It’s close to the equator.

geckoIt’s hot.

ABC News reports Top End parents are being urged to vacuum up tiny brown and white droppings of gecko poo amid an above-average rise in salmonella cases affecting young children.

Darwin annually records above national average rates of salmonella, especially among children under five during the humid months around Christmas.

This wet season is no different, however the past month has seen an unexpected rise in cases.

“We’re getting about 50 per cent more than we’d expect at the moment,” Dr Peter Markey, head of disease surveillance at the NT Centre for Disease Control, said.

There are many different strands of salmonella, with the disease’s spread generally linked to contaminated food, warm conditions, polluted water, unclean surfaces and the spread of faecal matter.

Symptoms include fever, diarrhoea, vomiting and dehydration, with children and the elderly especially badly affected.

Dr Markey said Top End-specific research conducted by the centre in recent years had identified many well-known risk factors.

“We’ve isolated salmonella from geckos, lizards, snakes. Dogs and cats and turtles are important carriers too. Goldfish even, because aquarium water can be contaminated.”

Dr Markey said young children handling pets and then not washing their hands would often lead to them getting sick, however some might be getting sick from actually eating tiny animal faeces.

Gecko poo is generally elongated and brown, sometimes with a tip of white, and is often mistaken for mouse or rat droppings.

“Toddlers of course live on the ground and crawl around and put anything in their mouths,” Dr Markey said.

“We showed that regular vacuuming can help.

“It’s important to get that gecko poo or the frog poo off the ground or balcony.”


Multistate outbreak of human Salmonella Muenchen infections linked to contact with pet crested geckos

We were eating dinner on the balcony – as you do in Brisbane – and our neighbor was showing his grandchild the geckos living in the utility box.

creasted-geckos-325There was no contact, but I still see a Salmonella factory.

According to the U.S Centers for Disease Control, as of May 13, 2015, a total of 20 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Muenchen have been reported from 16 states since January 1, 2014.

Three (15%) of these ill persons have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback findings have linked this outbreak of human Salmonella infections to contact with pet crested geckos purchased from multiple pet stores in different states.

Ten (91%) of 11 ill persons interviewed reported contact with a crested gecko in the week before their illness began.

CDC’S National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) laboratory conducted antibiotic resistance testing on Salmonella Muenchen isolates collected from two ill people infected with the outbreak strain.

Both isolates were susceptible to all antibiotics tested on the NARMS panel.

Antibiotic resistance testing on additional isolates collected from ill people infected with the outbreak strain is ongoing.

Salmonella factories: don’t eat geckos

“Liven up your next birthday party with a visit from Brisbane Reptile Awareness!

They’ll come to you with a number of reptiles for only $120 – not the usual $240!

Interact with pythons, lizards, a salt water crocodile, long neck turtle and more!

Touch and handle the reptiles while supervised by their specialist rangers.”

Which may be better than the young man who claims he reluctantly ate a lizard to avoid being bashed by a former outlaw bikie.

But forcing his mate to feast on the reptile did not stop ex-Rebel Motorcycle Club member Mark Adrian Mitchell from smashing the victim’s jaw because he then refused to continue taking part in a fraudulent eBay scheme, a court has been told.

Mitchell, 33, was yesterday jailed for four years and three months after pleading guilty in the Brisbane District Court to charges of extortion and assault causing grievous bodily harm at Sandstone Point and Banksia Beach, on Bribie Island, 50km north of Brisbane, between February and June last year.

Mitchell had earlier pleaded not guilty to a charge of torturing Mitchell Noe, 23, by forcing him to eat a Gecko if he was to avoid being bashed.

A jury was told Noe began eating the reptile, but stopped when it made him physically ill.

American admits smuggling Aussie lizards – by strapping them to his body (again)

Fresh off reports that a Peruvian man tried to smuggle 18 baby moneys into Mexico City by strapping them to his body, Michael Plank, owner of US-based Big Game Reptiles, admitted in a Californian court he smuggled 15 live Australian lizards into the US by strapping them to his chest.

Acting on a tip from a "confidential informant", a pat-down search on Plank after he arrived at Los Angeles international airport last November on a United Airlines flight originating in Sydney found two money belts strapped to his chest containing two geckos, two monitor lizards and 11 skinks worth more than $US8500 ($A9400).

Plank pleaded guilty after initially denying the charges.

Tenko the gecko found in broccoli, adopted by family

And I thought I was emotionally deprived ‘cause I only had a cold-blooded pet – a turtle – as a child.

Some kid in Meole Brace, near Shrewsbury, which is apparently in the U.K., found a four-inch gecko in broccoli purchased from supermarket Tesco.

Mother Paula Walsh said,

"My daughter had been cutting the broccoli for lunch when she screamed, ‘Mum come quick, come quick – there’s something crawling in the broccoli’. I pulled gently and out he came."

The family decided to keep the little salmonella factory and named it Tenko the gecko.

Tesco said its suppliers had rigorous and thorough checking processes but was glad Tenko had found a good home.

Which came first, the gecko or the egg?

Australia’s ABC News Online reports that Dr Peter Beaumont, the Northern Territory president of the Australian Medical Association, says he may have accidentally discovered how the potentially deadly salmonella bacteria gets inside chicken eggs when he discovered a dead gecko between the inner shell and the membrane of a chicken egg he cracked open while cooking.

He believes the discovery is a world first and has handed the egg shell over to health authorities who will look for the presence of bacteria in the yolk and try to work out how the gecko got into the egg.

Dr Beaumont says he suspects the gecko entered the chicken before it entered the egg, stating,

"Eggs are made inside chooks up this tube from their bottom. Now obviously this tube is in contact with the whole outside world. It has to be that the gecko climbed up inside the chook and died up there while the egg was being formed before the shell was put on it."

He says the discovery could have wide reaching implications for the egg farming industry, as it may explain how the potentially deadly salmonella bacteria gets into eggs.

Look at the cell phone on that gecko (gordon, below).