Salmonella enterica serovar Hvittingfoss is an important foodborne serotype of Salmonella, being detected in many countries where surveillance is conducted. Outbreaks can occur, and there was a recent multistate foodborne outbreak in Australia. S. Hvittingfoss can be found in animal populations, though a definitive animal host has not been established. Six species of birds were sampled at Roebuck Bay, a designated Ramsar site in northwestern Australia, resulting in 326 cloacal swabs for bacterial culture. Among a single flock of 63 bar-tailed godwits (Limosa lapponica menzbieri) caught at Wader Spit, Roebuck Bay, in 2018, 17 (27%) were culture positive for Salmonella. All other birds were negative for Salmonella. The isolates were identified as Salmonella enterica serovar Hvittingfoss. Phylogenetic analysis revealed a close relationship between isolates collected from godwits and the S. Hvittingfoss strain responsible for a 2016 multistate foodborne outbreak originating from tainted cantaloupes (rock melons) in Australia. While it is not possible to determine how this strain of S. Hvittingfoss was introduced into the bar-tailed godwits, these findings show that wild Australian birds are capable of carrying Salmonella strains of public health importance.
IMPORTANCE Salmonella is a zoonotic pathogen that causes gastroenteritis and other disease presentations in both humans and animals. Serovars of S. enterica commonly cause foodborne disease in Australia and globally. In 2016-2017, S. Hvittingfoss was responsible for an outbreak that resulted in 110 clinically confirmed human cases throughout Australia. The origin of the contamination that led to the outbreak was never definitively established. Here, we identify a migratory shorebird, the bar-tailed godwit, as an animal reservoir of S. Hvittingfoss. These birds were sampled in northwestern Australia during their nonbreeding period. The presence of a genetically similar S. Hvittingfoss strain circulating in a wild bird population, 2 years after the 2016-2017 outbreak and ∼1,500 km from the suspected source of the outbreak, demonstrates a potentially unidentified environmental reservoir of S. Hvittingfoss. While the birds cannot be implicated in the outbreak that occurred 2 years prior, this study does demonstrate the potential role for wild birds in the transmission of this important foodborne pathogen.