Salmonellae are Gram-negative zoonotic bacteria that are frequently part of the normal reptilian gastrointestinal flora. The main objective of this project was to estimate the prevalence of non-typhoidal Salmonella enterica in the nesting and foraging populations of sea turtles on St. Kitts and in sand from known nesting beaches. Results suggest a higher prevalence of Salmonella in nesting leatherback sea turtles compared with foraging green and hawksbill sea turtles. Salmonella was cultured from 2/9 and identified by molecular diagnostic methods in 3/9 leatherback sea turtle samples. Salmonella DNA was detected in one hawksbill turtle, but viable isolates were not recovered from any hawksbill sea turtles. No Salmonella was detected in green sea turtles. In samples collected from nesting beaches, Salmonella was only recovered from a single dry sand sample. All recovered isolates were positive for the wzx gene, consistent with the O:7 serogroup. Further serotyping characterized serovars Montevideo and Newport present in cloacal and sand samples. Repetitive-element palindromic PCR (rep-PCR) fingerprint analysis and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis of the 2014 isolates from turtles and sand as well as archived Salmonella isolates recovered from leatherback sea turtles in 2012 and 2013, identified two distinct genotypes and four different pulsotypes, respectively. The genotyping and serotyping were directly correlated. To determine the persistence of representative strains of each serotype/genotype in these environments, laboratory-controlled microcosm studies were performed in water and sand (dry and wet) incubated at 25 or 35°C. Isolates persisted for at least 32 days in most microcosms, although there were significant decreases in culturable bacteria in several microcosms, with the greatest reduction in dry sand incubated at 35°C. This information provides a better understanding of the epizootiology of Salmonella in free-ranging marine reptiles and the potential public health risks associated with human interactions with these animals in the Caribbean.
- Sea turtles
- St. Kitts
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Infectious Diseases