Rattlesnake Capsules Linked to Salmonella Poisoning

SATURDAY, April 14 (HealthDay News) -- Capsules of dried rattlesnake meat -- a Hispanic folk remedy purported to cure a host of health problems including acne, impotence, AIDS and cancer -- can be contaminated with a potentially lethal strain of salmonella bacteria, a U.S. infection control expert warns.

John James, a microbial epidemiologist at Children's Hospital in Denver, said the life-threatening strain of bacteria -- Salmonella arizonae -- in capsules of dried rattlesnake meat caused a child to become seriously ill. The child survived.

James talked about that case and the overall issue on Saturday at the annual scientific sessions of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America in Baltimore.

"Anecdotal evidence linking capsules of dried rattlesnake meat to salmonella poisoning has been reported for years. For the first time, however, we've used DNA molecular testing to prove definitively that the salmonella bacteria found in the dried meat was the cause of a life-threatening case of salmonella blood poisoning in a patient treated at our hospital," James said in a prepared statement.

Salmonella arizonae is commonly found in snakes and lizards.

"Unfortunately, the rattlesnake capsules -- believed by some to treat many types of diseases -- are often given to people whose immune systems already are compromised," James said. The child in this case had systemic lupus.

"These capsules should be removed from the market, or the manufacturers should be required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to irradiate the product before it is sold," James said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about salmonella infection from animals.

SOURCE: Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, news release, April 14, 2007