The Occupational Health and Safety Program is designed to inform individuals who work with animals about potential zoonosis (disease of animals transmissible to humans), personal hygiene and other potential hazards associated with animal exposure. This information sheet is directed toward those involved in the care and use of laboratory frogs/newts.
Aside from food poisonings, the overall incidence of transmission of disease-producing agents from frogs/newts to humans is low. There are, however, a number of agents that are found in frogs/newts and aquarium water that have the potential to be transmitted to humans. In general, humans contract frog/newt disease through ingestion of infected frog/newt tissues or aquarium water, or by contamination of lacerated or abraded skin. An important feature of many bacterial and protozoal organisms is their opportunistic nature. The development of disease in the human host often requires a preexisting state that compromises the immune system. If you have an immune-compromising medical condition or you are taking medications that impair your immune system (steroids, immunosuppressive drugs, or chemotherapy) you are at-risk for contracting a frog/newt disease and should consult your physician.
The following is a list of potential frog/newt zoonosis:
Salmonella: This bacteria inhabits the intestinal tract of many animals and humans. Salmonella occurs worldwide and is easily transmitted through ingested, either direct or indirect. Common symptoms of the illness are acute gastroenteritis with sudden onset of abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and fever. Antibiotic treatment is standard treatment for the illness. Prevention is through good personal hygiene and protective clothing, including - but not limited to - gloves.
Sparganosis: While unlikely in this area, frogs can become intermediate hosts to the pseudophyllidean cestode of the genus Spirometra. Disease in man is primarily through ingestion of the meat or contaminated water. Contact with the muscles of infected frogs is also considered a mode of transmission. Common symptoms include a nodular lesion that develops slowly and can be found on any part of the body. The main symptom is itching, sometimes accompanied by urticarial rash. Human sparganosis can be prevented by avoiding ingestion of contaminated water and meat, and avoiding direct contact with infected muscles.
Other organisms: Below is a list of additional zoonotic organisms that have been documented in frogs/newts. Human infections are typically acquired through ingestion of contaminated water resulting in gastroenteritis symptoms or from wound contamination. Escherichia coli, Edwardsiella tarda.
Human sensitivity to frog/newt proteins in the laboratory setting is rare. It remains possible however, to become sensitized to frog/newt proteins through inhalation or skin contact.