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Pet turtles: a continuing international threat to public health

Pet turtles: a continuing international threat to public health

American Journal of Epidemiology 132(2): 233-238

The occurrence of Salmonella spp. in red-eared (Pseudemys scripta elegans) turtle eggs imported into Canada from Louisiana (USA) in June to September 1988 was examined. Of 28 lots tested, six (21%) lots from three of four exporters harbored salmonellae. Salmonella poona and Salmonella arizonae were ferquently encountered in both fertile eggs and packaging moss. Turtles hatched in our laboratory from affected lots of eggs shed Salmonella in tank water for up to 11 months. Widespread use of gentamicin on turtle farms to produce Salmonella-free eggs for export apparently encouraged development of antibiotic resistance in bacterial strains. Of 37 Salmonella strains isolated in this study, 30 (81%) were gentamicin resistant. Such high levels of antibiotic-resistant salmonellae in turtle eggs pose a serious human health risk. Further marketing of turtle eggs and hatchlings should be curtailed until consistent production and distribution of Salmonella-free stocks can be assured.

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Accession: 007644470

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PMID: 2372004

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