Pet frogs carrying Salmonella make kids sick
Investigators traced the salmonella outbreak to contact with African dwarf frogs.
March 11th, 2013
12:01 AM ET

Pet frogs carrying Salmonella make kids sick

Raw meat is a notorious Salmonella carrier. It can also be found on unclean kitchen counters. An investigation published this week in the journal of Pediatrics suggests we should also look for the deadly bacteria in pet frogs.

Investigators from public health agencies across the United States found that African dwarf frogs are causing a nationwide outbreak of a specific Salmonella strain in children.

A group of health professionals make up the Salmonella Typhimurium Outbreak Investigation Team, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recently, the team has been examining the effects of African dwarf frogs on people’s health.

“Amphibians and reptiles should never be kept in homes with children less than 5 years old or with people who have immune deficiencies,” said lead author and CDC public health advisor Shauna Mettee Zarecki. This includes day care settings and nursing homes, she said.

This investigation is the first to report a nationwide Salmonella outbreak associated with amphibians.

The team examined an outbreak of that strain from 2008 to 2011 and identified 376 cases of Salmonella in 44 states to use in a matched case-control study. The control group was made up of people with recent Salmonella infections other than the outbreak strain, and the cases group included people with the outbreak strain infection. About 70% of those infected were children younger than 10 years old.

Here’s where it gets more complicated. Investigators interviewed 114 of those patients and about 60% of them reported frog exposure. Out of the patients who knew the type of frog, about 80% reported coming in contact with ADFs. In other words, salmonella infection was significantly associated with frog exposure in the study.

The investigators concluded the majority of children got sick from indirect exposure to these animals, such as handling aquarium water. Mettee Zarecki stressed that parents and/or children should wash animal habitats outside to avoid contaminating their kitchen sink or bathtub. Investigators said aquarium water can become more contaminated over time, increasing infection risk.

Mettee Zarecki said 29% of patients - mostly children - were hospitalized in this investigation.

Investigators tested samples from the frogs’ aquariums in patients’ homes, pet stores and a day care center that all matched the outbreak strain. According to the CDC’s website, patient purchases led investigators to one ADF breeding facility at Blue Lobster Farms in Madera County, California.

What’s troubling is frogs carrying the outbreak strain from this facility could still be in households, continuing to spread the infection. Surprisingly, pet frogs can live to up 18 years, more akin to a pet dog than a goldfish.

The investigators want pediatricians to warn patients of the risk associated with pet frogs. If you do come in contact with an amphibian or reptile, investigators recommend precautions like washing your hands with soap and warm water and using hand sanitizer.

soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. kermit

    Who's croaking now?

    March 11, 2013 at 13:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Boo

    This is old news.....heard the same about turtles...

    March 11, 2013 at 14:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CanAlwaysUseAReminder

      Boo-you are old news......

      March 11, 2013 at 17:19 | Report abuse |
    • DOTTIE

      My husband just said the same thing & lizards,too Blah,I hate 'em all Blah,,Yuck,slimey,ugly,creepy,etc.

      May 4, 2013 at 10:40 | Report abuse |
  3. JL

    Very old news....always clean your hands after contact with these pets and always clean surfaces where their water might have splashed/spilled. Have had them for years,,never handle the water or the frogs w/o wearing gloves and always wash up afterwards. Common sense

    March 11, 2013 at 15:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Sheila

    Don't put your frogs (or other amphibians and reptiles) in your mouth. Wash your hands after handling. Basic.

    March 11, 2013 at 15:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. gusto

    I heard years ago that turtles carry Salmonella. Wonder why the delay in checking frogs too.

    March 11, 2013 at 16:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. H Dean

    Not only is it old news but they identified the frog incorrectly. That's an African Clawed Frog from the genus Xenopus. It may be a dwarf variant but it is incorrectly identified. Facts are ever so important.

    March 11, 2013 at 18:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • John

      Sorry, but you are incorrect. Yes dwarf and claw frogs look almost exactly the same when young and small. However the difference is the webbing in between the toes. African DWARF frogs have the webbing as seen in the photo. And African Claw frogs DON'T have the webbing.

      March 12, 2013 at 10:47 | Report abuse |
  7. DC Visitor

    This is a fantastic article! Very well written and informative, appreciate the insight, Miss Welsh!

    March 11, 2013 at 21:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Lizard Lance


    March 12, 2013 at 03:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Clint

    The expert in this study was quoted on another website, Mother Nature News, saying this: Shauna Mettee Zarecki, the study's lead author from the CDC in Atlanta. "The majority of people didn't realize there were any risks from these amphibians or other amphibians, like turtles and snakes," she added.
    Again, factual information? Let's make a similar statement to see the problem. "Pitbulls kill a lot of people like other dogs, lions and tigers"

    March 12, 2013 at 08:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. george

    are other frogs like the clawed frog safer?

    March 12, 2013 at 13:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. clk55

    Just don't eat the frogs. This isn't France or China.

    March 12, 2013 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
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    Your information is incorrect, the species you r talking about is an african dwarf frog. The frog in the pic is and african clawed frog. Check yourself b4 you reck yourself. No one is gonna take u seriously if u post wrong information

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