It’s well-known that ingesting mucus from certain frog species can pose some serious health risks. The inherent toxicity levels of certain frog species is not the only concern, as one can also fall ill due to various other harmful bacteria and pathogens on a frog’s skin, including Salmonella.
Frogs can generally carry Salmonella bacteria, and it has been estimated that amphibian exposure is partially responsible for around 74,000 Salmonella infections every year in the United States. Amphibian-related salmonella infections can be overcome by avoiding contact with frogs and wearing gloves when necessary.
Although potential frog toxicity levels are still the most dangerous threat when handling various frog species, there is also the risk of becoming ill by other means. Many frogs and other amphibians can carry Salmonella bacteria, and it is possible to develop Salmonella infections (Salmonellosis) as a result.
Frogs can carry Salmonella bacteria on their skin, even if they appear to be healthy. It is common for amphibians to carry the bacteria on their bodies without suffering from an infection themselves, which can make it tricky to spot if a frog is carrying the bacteria just by looking at it. Salmonella bacteria is also a healthy inclusion in amphibian and reptile digestive tracts.
While Salmonella infections are often treatable, they can lead to severe side effects in some people. This article discuss the prevalence of frogs that carry Salmonella and how to avoid Salmonella infections as a result of frog handling.
How Can You Get Salmonella From Frogs?
Salmonella bacteria can primarily be spread from frogs to humans due to contact with:
- A frog that carries Salmonella bacteria
- A frog’s environment, which may contain Salmonella bacteria
- Frog feces and other bodily waste products
- Water from their environment
- Objects from their environment
The Salmonella bacteria can only be transmitted to people by means of contact, whether direct or indirect. The transmission of Salmonella can be spread irrespective of the frog’s habitat, meaning that they may carry the bacteria in the wild or in captivity.
Although these contact methods are most prominent in Salmonella transmission, the bacteria can be housed on anything that frogs have touched. It is incredibly important to consider the possibility of transmission when handling any frogs or frog-related objects within their habitat.
While it may be possible to get Salmonella infections through such means of contact, it is far more likely for the bacteria to develop into an infection if it enters the bloodstream, sinuses, or body. Open skin, wounds, the mouth, the nose, and the eyes are all weak spots for bacteria entry.
What Is Salmonellosis?
Salmonellosis occurs when the Salmonella bacteria causes an infection. This sort of infection typically affects the intestines, but it may impact the bloodstream as well. It is possible to contract salmonellosis due to contact with frogs or other amphibians.
The onset of classic Salmonella infection symptoms typically occur between one and three days after the bacteria’s initial transmission. The most common symptoms of Salmonellosis include the following:
- Abdominal cramps
Salmonella infections are generally treatable with appropriate and timely responses, and most healthy humans can recover with little to no complications. Still, Salmonella infections will demand medical attention and prescribed medication.
However, some people may be more vulnerable to severe illness, such as children under the age of five years old. For older people or those with compromised immune systems, Salmonella can be a serious threat. The infection can cause severe sickness, and it can cause fatalities in some cases.
How Common Are Salmonella Infections From Frogs?
Salmonella infections are quite common worldwide, although the outcome is generally positive with proper treatment. Since a wide range of potential carriers can cause salmonellosis, it can be tricky to identify exactly how many cases are caused by frogs on average.
A study into a reptile and amphibian-related Salmonella infections was conducted at 5 Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (Mermin et al, 2004). The study primarily included Oregon and Minnesota, but it also included certain counties in Georgia, California, and Connecticut.
The research process comprised two separate studies with different groups containing Salmonella serogroup B or D, and patients were interviewed concerning amphibian or reptile contact for context.
|Study No.||Salmonella Patients||Control Group|
Amphibian or reptile contact was associated with both serogroup and non-serogroup B or D Salmonella. The amphibian or reptile-associated population attributable fraction was 6% for all Salmonella infections and 11% for individuals under the age of 21 years old.
The collected data estimated that an average of 74,000 annual Salmonella infections in the United States are due to amphibian or reptile association.
How To Avoid Salmonella Infections From Frogs
The most important factor in avoiding frog-related Salmonella infections is ensuring that no contact is made with frogs, whether indirect or direct. Avoid handling frogs directly, as this can also pose various risks for their and your wellbeing.
Always practice caution when handling frogs or roaming their habitats in the wild, and practice strict hygiene habits after your amphibian-related adventures. Consider adopting the following habits, whether you enjoy observing frogs in the wild or have a beloved pet frog in your home:
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water (or sanitize your hands) after touching a frog or anything in their habitat.
- Do not let young children touch frogs or anything in their habitat.
- Keep frogs away from young children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems.
- Do not touch your mouth, nose, or eyes after handling frogs.
- Do not eat or drink near frogs.
- Do not let pet frogs roam freely.
- Habitats should be cleaned outside of the home.
- Use gloves during cleaning or necessary handling.
- Do not dispose of water in sinks used for household purposes.
- Use a registered disinfectant for cleaning areas that frogs have touched.
- Wash clothing that frogs might have touched.
Although Salmonella infections can be treated without issue in most patients, certain cases still have serious risks. Always keep a safe distance from frogs and ensure that you and your loved ones are educated on the associated risks to avoid amphibian-related Salmonella infections.
More About Frogs
Learn more about frogs in these guides on our blog
Mermin J, Hutwagner L, Vugia D, Shallow S, Daily P, Bender J, Koehler J, Marcus R, Angulo FJ; Emerging Infections Program FoodNet Working Group. Reptiles, amphibians, and human Salmonella infection: a population-based, case-control study. Clin Infect Dis. 2004 Apr 15;38 Suppl 3:S253-61. doi: 10.1086/381594. PMID: 15095197.