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PLoS One. 2014 Feb 26;9(2):e88968. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0088968. eCollection 2014.

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

Author information

Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, London, United Kingdom.
Salmonella Reference Service, Public Health England, London, United Kingdom.
Department of Bacteriology, Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Addlestone, Surrey, United Kingdom.
Veterinary Department, Zoological Society of London, London, United Kingdom.
School of Veterinary Sciences, University of Liverpool, Neston, Cheshire, United Kingdom.
Diseases of Wildlife Scheme, Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Penrith, Cumbria, United Kingdom.
Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom.
Wildlife Veterinary Investigation Centre, Truro, Cornwall, United Kingdom.
British Trust for Ornithology, Thetford, Norfolk, United Kingdom.
University of East Anglia, Norwich, Norfolk, United Kingdom.


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.

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