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Reptile-associated salmonellosis: an under-recognised problem in Ireland?
  1. N Al-assaf1,
  2. P Gavin1,
  3. R Manning2
  1. 1Infectious Diseases, Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
  2. 2General Paediatrics, Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Dublin, Ireland

Abstract

Introduction Reptiles serve as reservoirs of Salmonella and can shed Salmonella in their faeces. During the last decade ownership of “exotic pets”, such as reptiles, has increased in Ireland. From 2005 to May 2008, 14 cases of reptile-associated human salmonellosis were identified in Ireland. Eight of the 14 cases were in infants less than 1 year of age. The authors describe a case of reptile-associated salmonellosis and review the epidemiology.

Case Report In September 2007, an 8-week-old male infant was hospitalised with two-days of watery diarrhoea (6 stools/day), fever (38.8°C), decreased oral intake, lethargy, pallor and signs of mild to moderate dehydration. Investigations: WBC, 5100 (N, 2.8); Hb, 10 g/dl; platelets, 402 000; C-reactive protein, 39; LP was traumatic and Gram stain negative. He received ceftriaxone, gentamicin and intravenous fluids. Blood and cerebrospinal fluid cultures remained negative. He became afebrile, his general condition improved and he was discharged home after 48 h. Two days later, stool cultures were reported positive for Salmonella enterica serovar Stanley. He was readmitted and treated with 10-days intravenous amoxicillin. A more detailed history revealed a pet Chinese water dragon at home. An identical Salmonella serotype was isolated from stool specimens obtained from the pet reptile. The infant made a full recovery. Five months later, he was seen in outpatients and was doing well. However, repeat stool culture remains positive for Salmonella.

Conclusions Unless specific enquiry is made regarding ownership of or contact with reptiles, it is likely that many cases of reptile-associated salmonellosis go unrecognised. Increased awareness of the possibility of acquiring infection from reptiles is required. Veterinarians, pet-shop owners, public health officials, and paediatricians should provide such information to potential reptile owners and carers who own reptiles. The US and several European states have guidelines aimed at reducing reptile-associated salmonellosis. At present, no such guidelines exist in Ireland.

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