In the JournalsPerspective

Clinicians urged to warn patients about pet frogs, salmonella risk

A nationwide outbreak of Salmonella typhimurium that occurred between 2008 and 2011 was linked to African dwarf frogs. Therefore, researchers for a recent study are advising pediatricians to ask patients and their parents about exposure to these frogs and other amphibians.

CDC researchers reviewed data on 376 patients from 44 states who had S. typhimurium between 2008 and 2011. The investigators compared those patients with controls who had different types of salmonella infection than the outbreak strain.

The researchers said the median age of those affected by the outbreak strain was 5 years, and about 29% of the patients were hospitalized.

“Among 114 patients interviewed, 69 reported frog exposure. Of patients who knew frog type, 79% reported African dwarf frogs, a type of aquatic frog,” the researchers wrote.

The researchers said their investigation showed the frogs were bought at “a common African dwarf frog breeding facility.”

They concluded, “Pediatricians are uniquely qualified to provide education to young patients and their families about the risk of salmonella infection from animals.”

Disclosure: Mettee Zarecki reports no relevant financial disclosures.

A nationwide outbreak of Salmonella typhimurium that occurred between 2008 and 2011 was linked to African dwarf frogs. Therefore, researchers for a recent study are advising pediatricians to ask patients and their parents about exposure to these frogs and other amphibians.

CDC researchers reviewed data on 376 patients from 44 states who had S. typhimurium between 2008 and 2011. The investigators compared those patients with controls who had different types of salmonella infection than the outbreak strain.

The researchers said the median age of those affected by the outbreak strain was 5 years, and about 29% of the patients were hospitalized.

“Among 114 patients interviewed, 69 reported frog exposure. Of patients who knew frog type, 79% reported African dwarf frogs, a type of aquatic frog,” the researchers wrote.

The researchers said their investigation showed the frogs were bought at “a common African dwarf frog breeding facility.”

They concluded, “Pediatricians are uniquely qualified to provide education to young patients and their families about the risk of salmonella infection from animals.”

Disclosure: Mettee Zarecki reports no relevant financial disclosures.

    Perspective
    Arnon Shimshony

    Arnon Shimshony

    Though of comparatively smaller dimensions, the described nationwide outbreak of human Salmonella typhimurium infections, attributed to tiny pets — African dwarf frogs — reminds of a previous nationwide salmonella outbreak spread by another tiny pet, similarly predominantly among children. This relates to the spread of several salmonella species, including S. typhimurium, by baby turtles, during the 1960s and early 1970s.

    By 1972, about one in 25 households in the United States contained a pet turtle, and an estimated 14% of human salmonella infections, or 280,000 infections per year, were attributed to turtle exposure. This eventually led the FDA to publish in 1975 a prohibition upon the sale or distribution of small turtles in the United States, except for bona fide scientific, exhibition or educational purposes. The drastic step was followed by a sharp and sustainable drop in salmonellosis incidence among US children.

    To avoid the need for such measures in relation to other reptiles or amphibian pets, particularly those which have gained wide popularity, their producers and distributors are required to try to develop and apply appropriate hygiene regimen, and authorities are to intensify their control and surveillance at source, namely in frog-breeding facilities, as well as in pet stores. Pediatricians, as rightly indicated by the paper’s authors, as well as vets, are encouraged to advise their clientele about the personal hygiene measures children are to exercise at home while and after handling the pets.

    • Arnon Shimshony, DVM
    • Koret School of Veterinary Medicine Hebrew University of Jerusalem Tel Aviv, Israel Infectious Disease News Editorial Board member

    Disclosures: Shimshony reports no relevant financial disclosures.