Aug 4, 2009 | 3
ALBUQUERQUE—The foot-long Tokay gecko's polka-dot skin and wide eyes have made it popular with pet stores, where it can sell for less than $20. But the adorable Asian lizards are also a mixing pot for 10 types of salmonella from local livestock, poultry and rodents, a researcher said today.
For the last several years, Katherine Smith at Brown University and colleagues have worked to document the pet trade's potential to bring new and dangerous diseases to the United States. As Smith reported in Science earlier this year, the U.S. imported 1.5 billion live animals between 2000 and 2006, just 14 percent of which have been identified to species in government records. Even less well-known are the pathogens they may contain. In 2003, for instance, a Gambian pouched rat started an outbreak of monkeypox in the Midwest.
At the Ecological Society of America meeting here today, Smith described new results from a study of 150 wild-caught Tokay geckos imported from Indonesia. She found that 60 percent of the geckos tested positive for Salmonella, which was not too surprising considering that 10 percent of salmonella cases are caused by reptile pets, such as slider turtles and iguanas.
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