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The Tokay gecko harbors 10 different strains of Salmonella

SciAm reports that the foot-long Tokay gecko from Indonesia with polka-dot skin and wide eyes is a mixing pot for 10 types of salmonella some which can be acquired from local livestock, poultry and rodents. The gecko is popular with pet stores, where it can sell for less than $20.

"Research presented at the Ecological Society of America meeting in New Mexico by Katherine Smith at Brown University described results from a study of 150 wild-caught Tokay geckos imported from Indonesia. She found that 60 percent of the geckos tested positive for Salmonella, which was not too surprising considering that 10 percent of salmonella cases are caused by reptile pets, such as slider turtles and iguanas.

"What was surprising," she said, "was the diversity ... we found." Most studies have identified one or two strains of salmonella in reptile species, but Smith found a total of 10 strains, called serotypes, in just these geckos. Two of the serotypes are well known from reptiles, but others came from livestock, poultry and rodents. One type is extremely rare in the U.S. and is primarily known from Asian samples."

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