Care and Use of Frogs and Newts

This document is part of a larger Occupational Health and Safety component (in development) for the PSU Institutional Animal Care and Use Program. This sheet is designed to inform individuals who work with animals about potential zoonotic diseases (diseases 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.

Potential Zoonotic Diseases

Aside from incidents relative to contact with poisonous species, 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. 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 paragraphs include a partial list of potential frog/newt zoonosis.

Salmonella

Salmonella bacteria inhabit 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 (Salmonellosis) are acute gastroenteritis with sudden onset of abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and fever. Antibiotic treatment is standard for the illness. Prevention is through good personal hygiene, personal protective equipment, including, but not limited to gloves.

Sparganosis

While unlikely in this geographic area, frogs can become intermediate hosts to the pseudophyllidean cestode of the genus Spirometra. Disease in humans 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 painful nodular lesion that develops slowly and can be found on any part of the body, including the brain. 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

Additional zoonotic organisms that have been documented in frogs/newts include Escherichia coli and Edwardsiella tarda. Human infections are typically acquired through ingestion of contaminated water resulting in gastroenteritis symptoms or from wound contamination.

Allergic Reactions to frogs/newts

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. Cases of occupational asthma caused by from proteins have been documented.

How to Protect Yourself

  • Wash your hands. The single most effective preventative measure that can be taken is thorough, regular hand washing.
  • Wash hands and arms after handling frogs/newts and aquarium water. Never smoke, drink or eat in the animal rooms or before washing your hands.
  • Wear gloves. If you are in a situation in which you will spend a significant amount of time with your hands immersed in water or if you have any cuts or abrasions on your hands or arms, you should wear sturdy, impervious gloves.
  • Wear other protective clothing. Lab coats should be available and worn when working with the animals. Avoid wearing street clothes while working with animals. Since lab coats are considered personal protective equipment they should not be taken home to launder. PI’s or Departments are responsible for laundering soiled lab coats. Note that all lab coats worn in an animal room should stay in the animal room rather than being worn to and from labs, class, etc.

Seek Medical Attention Promptly

If you are injured on the job, promptly report the accident to your supervisor even if it seems relatively minor. If you are experiencing symptoms that you think may be related to animal handling, talk to your faculty supervisor for advice and additional guidance. Minor cuts and abrasions should be immediately cleaned with antibacterial soap and then protected from exposure to frogs/newts and water associated with their housing. For more serious injuries or if there is any question, seek medical attention. As soon as practical complete the following forms: 1) SAIF 801 form, and 2) PSU Injury Report form. These forms are found on the Human Resources forms page under the heading “Workers’ Compensation” at the following link: http://www.pdx.edu/hr/policies_contracts_forms. If medical treatment is sought, the cost is covered by Workers’ Compensation Insurance managed by the PSU insurance carrier SAIF.

Tell your physician you work with frogs/newts

Whenever you are ill, even if you're not certain that the illness is workrelated, always mention to your physician that you work with frogs/newts. Many zoonotic diseases have flu-like symptoms and would not normally be suspected. Your physician needs this information to make an accurate diagnosis.

Please direct any occupational health and safety questions to PSU Environmental Health and Safety 725-4312.