Study links salmonellosis to pet rodents

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A new study concludes that pet rodents probably are an underrecognized source of salmonellosis in humans.

"Multidrug-resistant Salmonella enterica serotype Typhimurium associated with pet rodents" appeared in the Jan. 4 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

In 2004, the Minnesota Department of Health notified the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the isolation of multidrug-resistant Salmonella Typhimurium from ill hamsters from a Minnesota pet distributor. A report in the Weekly Morbidity and Mortality Report for May 6, 2005, described two of the first human cases in this outbreak (see JAVMA, June 15, 2005).

The new study identified matching isolates of Salmonella Typhimurium in 28 additional human patients in whom the onset of illness occurred between December 2003 and September 2004. Twenty-two patients or their parents were available for interviews. Thirteen of these patients in 10 states reported exposure to pet hamsters, mice, or rats. Two patients had secondary infections. The median age of the 15 patients with primary or secondary rodent exposure was 16 years, and six patients spent time in the hospital.

The study identified 13 pet stores in 10 states, with seven distributors, that had connections to the outbreak. The study did not identify a single source of the ill rodents.