Pet frogs are spreading Salmonella to children, according to a newly published report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Salmonella Typhimurium Outbreak Investigation Team, comprised of several health professionals in association with the CDC, have linked a significant outbreak of Salmonella infections in the United States to interaction with African dwarf frogs. The small water amphibians are commonly marketed and sold as pets across the country.
According to lead study author, Shauna Mettee Zarecki, the findings represent the first time aquatic frogs have been definitively linked to widespread Salmonella infections.
The outbreak reportedly affected 376 individuals, primarily children, across 44 states between 2008 and 2011. The infection reportedly resulted in hospitalization for 29 percent of the cases.
While Salmonella is commonly associated with contaminated food items, the deadly bacteria can also be spread from contact with amphibians and reptiles.
According to the CDC, they are attributed to approximately 74,000 Salmonella infections each year.
The CDC’s research linking pet frogs to Salmonella was conducted through a matched case-control study. The case group was comprised of participants infected with a particular strain of bacteria attributed to the 2008 – 2011 outbreak.
The cases were compared to a control group consisting of individuals with recent Salmonella infections of a different strain.
Patients answered questions concerning their food intake and animal contact during the week prior to their illness. More than 60 percent of the test subjects infected with the outbreak strain reported contact with frogs during that time.
A reported 80 percent of those cases were specifically linked to contact with African dwarf frogs. Supporting the link are test samples, extracted from patients’ home aquariums, which tested positive for the outbreak strain Salmonella bacteria.
The pet frogs linked to the Salmonella contamination were subsequently traced to Blue Lobster Farms, a Madera County, California breeding facility. The bacteria strain was reportedly found within the facility’s water filters, floor drains, tank water, and cleaning equipment.
Blue Lobster Farms, which specializes in the breeding of African dwarf frogs, briefly ceased operations to conduct thorough cleaning procedures. However, according to researchers, there is significant potential for the facility’s contamination to contribute to future outbreaks.
Their concerns are based on the lifespan of African dwarf frogs, which falls between five and 18 years. The possibility remains that the pet frogs contaminated with Salmonella may still be living in homes across the country and could continue to spread infection.
To avoid exposure, parents and children are advised to clean animal habitats outdoors to avoid contamination of household bathtubs or sinks. Researchers also advise washing your hands with warm water and soap or hand sanitizer after handling amphibians or reptiles.
The Salmonella Typhimurium Outbreak Investigation Team’s report detailing the link between pet frogs and Salmonella was published in the journal Pediatrics on March 11.