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Comparison of Two Sampling Methods for Bacterial Culture of Salmonella enterica ssp. arizonae from Burmese Pythons (Python bivittatus)

Buscaglia, Nicholas A., Weinkle, Tristan K., McDonough, Patrick L., Kollias, George V.
Journal of herpetological medicine and surgery 2019 v.29 no.1-2 pp. 40-48
Python bivittatus, Salmonella enterica subsp. arizonae, bacterial culture, carrier state, cloaca, feces, medicine, sampling, serotypes, snakes, surgery
Cloacal swabs and feces were collected for four consecutive months from 19 young, healthy Burmese pythons (Python bivittatus) that were culture-confirmed, asymptomatic carriers of Salmonella enterica ssp. arizonae (S. arizonae). Standard culture protocols were used on 152 samples in total (76 fecal samples and 76 cloacal swabs). Comparison of the two sampling methods for each month and over the combined 4 months using McNemar's χ² test revealed that the two methods were not statistically different at the P < 0.05 level. However, of the cloacal swabs, 71 (93%) of 76 samples yielded positive cultures of S. arizonae, 15 (79%) of 19 snakes had no negative cloacal swabs, 1 (5%) snake had more than one negative cloacal swab (but not consecutively), and all snakes had positive cultures in two of the months. Of the fecal samples, 64 (84%) of 76 samples yielded positive cultures of S. arizonae, 13 (68%) of 19 snakes had no negative fecal samples, 4 (21%) snakes had more than one negative fecal sample (3 of which were in consecutive months), and all months had at least one negative culture. Serotyping of confirmed S. arizonae isolates identified three different serotypes. This study provides the first evidence-based data to support the statistical equivalency of cloacal swabs and fecal samples for the isolation of Salmonella from reptiles. Cloacal swabs are easy and convenient to collect and are less prone to confounding factors than are fecal samples, so clinicians can feel comfortable using this sample collection method.