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Zoonotic potential of Salmonella enterica carried by pet tortoises
  1. Hayley L Bruce, BVetMed, MRCVS1,
  2. Paul A Barrow, BSc, PhD, DSc, FRCPath2 and
  3. Andrew N Rycroft, BSc, PhD, FRSB, FRCPath1
  1. 1Department of Pathobiology & Population Sciences, Royal Veterinary College, Hatfield, UK
  2. 2School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus, Nottingham, UK
  1. E-mail for correspondence; arycroft{at}


The prevalence of Salmonella in chelonians is not known in the UK and it is not clear whether such Salmonella strains would be pathogenic for human beings. Some strains, such as members of the Arizonae subgroup, may be unable to cause anything more than very mild disease. To determine the carriage of Salmonella in pet tortoises, cloacal swabs were taken for culture. Salmonella enterica Group D was isolated from 5 of the 89 samples. All five were from the same household of seven tortoises. Salmonella isolates were shown by PCR to carry the invA and spiC genes associated with pathogenicity islands 1 and 2. Each isolate carried both genes indicating they had the genetic basis for disease and enterocyte invasion in human beings. The study indicates a low rate of asymptomatic carriage among the general population of pet tortoises. However, it does suggest that those Salmonella strains colonising the tortoise can carry Salmonella pathogenicity island (SPI)-1 and SPI-2 conferring the potential to cause disease in human beings and other animals.

  • tortoises
  • pathogenicity islands
  • salmonella
  • zoonoses

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  • Funding This study was funded by Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/G020744/1).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval for sampling was obtained from the Royal Veterinary College Ethics and Welfare Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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