Geckos Pose Risks To Pet Owners

Gecko

Geckos are increasingly becoming popular as pets, especially in the U.S. However, the lizards could pose a potential risk to their owners in the form of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

This stark warning has come about following a review of geckos imported into the U.S. from Indonesia. A research group led by Sonia Hernandez have studied the lizards for the types of bacteria that they carry inside their intestines.

The researchers found, from an analysis of feces, that the lizards carried high numbers of enteric bacteria, and that many of these were resistant to the antibiotics. This means that many antibiotic bacteria could be introduced into households. Such bacteria pose a risk to those who become infected or to people with weak immune systems. There is also a risk of cross-transfer to other household pets.

The types of antibiotics to which the bacteria were resistant to included penicillins, chloramphenicol, aminopenicillins, cephalosporins and tetracyclines. Researchers do not know, at this stage, why geckos are carrying such high numbers of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

The general advice is that such ‘pets’ must be handled correctly and care must be taken if there are open wounds. Hands should be washed on all occasions after handling. Parents should also supervise their children carefully. In the long-term, it is a good idea that geckos are screened as part of import procedures.

The study was carried out at the University of Georgia. The findings have been recorded in the journal Science of The Total Environment, in a paper headed “The carriage of antibiotic resistance by enteric bacteria from imported tokay geckos (Gekko gecko) destined for the pet trade.”

About the author

Tim Sandle

Dr. Tim Sandle is a chartered biologist and holds a first class honours degree in Applied Biology; a Masters degree in education; and has a doctorate from Keele University.