In 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that small, pet turtles had caused multistate Salmonella outbreaks in the United States, from where small turtles were subsequently exported into the Republic of Korea. We investigated cases of salmonellosis in South Korea associated with domestic small turtles and analysed genetic characteristics of Salmonella isolates in commercially-available small turtles. We traced six Salmonella serovars, known to have caused human infection in the United States (S. Sandiego, S. Pomona, S. Poona, S. Newport, I 4,(5),12:i:-, and S. Typhimurium), in isolates from suspected Salmonella infection cases in Korea from 2006 to 2015. Additionally, we conducted a pilot study of isolates from small turtles being sold in Korean markets, and performed molecular genetic analysis on the identified strains. S. Pomona was identified in one Salmonella infection case, while all strains isolated from small turtles belonged to either subspecies I (enterica, n = 10, 71.4%) or subspecies IIIb (diarizonae, n = 4, 28.6%). Two serovars (S. Pomona and S. Sandiego) that were highly associated with turtle-to-human transmission were identified with 100% homology to human isolates. Previous to this study, turtle-associated human S. Pomona infections were not well reported in Korea. We report Salmonella infection in small turtles in Korea, and confirm that small turtles should be considered the first infectious agent in S. Pomona infection. We therefore suggest quarantine measures for importing small turtles be enhanced in Korea.
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