(HealthDay News) — An outbreak of primarily pediatric Salmonella Typhimurium infections in the United States has been traced to aquatic African dwarf frogs kept as pets, according to a study published online March 11 in Pediatrics.

Shauna L. Mettee Zarecki, RN, MPH, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues investigated the source of an outbreak of 376 cases of human Salmonella Typhimurium infections occurring primarily among children from 44 states from 2008 to 2011, which resulted in 56 hospitalizations but no deaths.

For cases, the median patient age was 5 years; and 69 percent were children younger than 10 years. The researchers found that compared with cases of recent Salmonella infection with strains other than the outbreak strain, the outbreak cases were more often associated with exposure to frogs, most often African dwarf frogs. In a sample of 18 cases and 29 controls, illness was significantly more likely with exposure to frogs (67 versus 3 percent; odds ratio, 12.4). Samples from aquariums of African dwarf frogs contained the outbreak strain, which was further traced to a common African dwarf frog breeding facility based on patient purchases.

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“This is the first reported outbreak of human Salmonella infections associated with African dwarf frogs, particularly among young children,” Zarecki and colleagues conclude. “This outbreak highlights the ongoing public health problem of salmonellosis among children from exposure to certain high-risk animals, such as amphibians (e.g., frogs), reptiles (e.g., turtles), and baby poultry.”

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