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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Zoonotic Risks from Amphibians and Reptiles


Captive amphibians and reptiles are well-documented sources of human salmonellosis through direct contact with contaminated feces or fomites. However, the relative significance of wild cold-blooded vertebrates as hosts/reservoirs of zoonotic enteric pathogens in their natural habitat is not known. Wild amphibian and reptile populations are present in the leafy green produce production environment in the central California coast, and there are reports from growers that frogs and other species sometimes intrude into produce fields. These intrusions may result in destruction of the crop and economic losses, due to food safety and quality concerns. Environmental groups have also noted potential conflicts between conservation efforts and food safety practices that result in removal or damage to aquatic habitat (e.g., farm ponds, adjacent wetland areas). To address these concerns, we conducted a survey of foodborne pathogen prevalence in common amphibian and reptile populations during the 2011 produce growing season in the central California coast. Preliminary results indicate that Salmonella prevalence was higher among wild-caught reptile (33%) compared with amphibian (4%) taxa. In contrast, all samples were negative for E. coli O157. Wildlife damage management in fresh produce production fields is challenging, due to the diversity of potential hosts/reservoirs of foodborne pathogens and a limited number of mitigation strategies. Professionals working in vertebrate pest control could play an important role in assisting fresh produce growers with implementation of co-management approaches that promote public health and conservation goals in the central coast agricultural landscape.

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