The role of wildlife as a source of zoonotic Salmonella transmission is poorly understood, as are the clinical implications of this pathogen among wildlife species. Wildlife hospitals represent an important location to conduct Salmonella surveillance, given the wide variety of species admitted for medical and surgical care. Our objectives were to estimate the prevalence of fecal Salmonella shedding among wildlife admitted to a veterinary medical teaching hospital, to identify risk factors for infection, and to fully characterize the isolates. Voided fecal samples (birds and mammals) and cloacal swab samples (reptiles and amphibians) were collected between May 2018 and March 2020. Standard bacteriologic culture methods were used to detect Salmonella, and isolates were characterized via serotyping, antimicrobial susceptibility testing, and whole-genome sequencing. Samples were collected from 348 wildlife patients representing 74 wildlife species, and the apparent prevalence of fecal Salmonella shedding was 1.4% (5/348; 95% confidence interval, 0.5–3.3%). Four serotypes were identified, and isolates were phenotypically susceptible to all antimicrobial agents tested. Two isolates were closely related to human clinical isolates, demonstrating the overlap between wildlife and human pathogens. Fecal Salmonella shedding among hospitalized wildlife appears to be uncommon, and the risk of either nosocomial or zoonotic Salmonella transmission is presumably low. Nevertheless, the occurrence of Salmonella in wildlife, particularly among common species found in a wide array of habitats, poses a potential threat to public health and may result in transmission to more-vulnerable wildlife populations.
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Vol. 57 • No. 4