Epidemiological evidence that garden birds are a source of human salmonellosis in England and Wales

Becki Lawson, Elizabeth de Pinna, Robert A Horton, Shaheed K Macgregor, Shinto K John, Julian Chantrey, J Paul Duff, James K Kirkwood, Victor R Simpson, Robert A Robinson, John Wain, Andrew A Cunningham

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The importance of wild bird populations as a reservoir of zoonotic pathogens is well established. Salmonellosis is a frequently diagnosed infectious cause of mortality of garden birds in England and Wales, predominantly caused by Salmonella enterica subspecies enterica serovar Typhimurium definitive phage types 40, 56(v) and 160. In Britain, these phage types are considered highly host-adapted with a high degree of genetic similarity amongst isolates, and in some instances are clonal. Pulsed field gel electrophoresis, however, demonstrated minimal variation amongst matched DT40 and DT56(v) isolates derived from passerine and human incidents of salmonellosis across England in 2000-2007. Also, during the period 1993-2012, similar temporal and spatial trends of infection with these S. Typhimurium phage types occurred in both the British garden bird and human populations; 1.6% of all S. Typhimurium (0.2% of all Salmonella) isolates from humans in England and Wales over the period 2000-2010. These findings support the hypothesis that garden birds act as the primary reservoir of infection for these zoonotic bacteria. Most passerine salmonellosis outbreaks identified occurred at and around feeding stations, which are likely sites of public exposure to sick or dead garden birds and their faeces. We, therefore, advise the public to practise routine personal hygiene measures when feeding wild birds and especially when handling sick wild birds.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere88968
JournalPLoS One
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2014

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