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Research Update – Researchers Identify the Bacterium That Causes Fatal Diseases in Pet Trade and Rare Desert Lizards

A newly discovered bacteria species (Deviriesea agamarum) is responsible for a variety of fatal organ diseases that currently plague captive lizard populations, according to an article in the September, 2008 issue of The International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. Particularly hard-hit has been a breeding program for the highly endangered Oman dab lizard, Uromastyx thomasi, but a number of other desert-dwelling lizards in the genera Uromastyx and Agama are susceptible as well. The bacterium is related to others that cause human skin infections.The identification of the bacterium has important implications not only for the treatment of disease in captive lizards, but also for wild populations. Captive-bred reptiles that are used in reintroduction programs may appear healthy but harbor diseases that can decimate wild populations. Some years ago, this very situation caused serious respiratory disease outbreaks among desert tortoise populations in the American southwest, and led to a ban on the release of confiscated tortoises. Similarly, the September 23, 2008 issue of Current Biology states that many amphibian species in Europe are currently threatened by a fatal Chytrid fungus that was introduced to the wild by Mallorcan midwife toads released as part of a reintroduction effort.

You can read more about disease problems that affect reintroduction programs at:


  1. avatar

    Frank, thank you for the article! I have a Mali Uro’ and I have a son with special needs…..is there any thing I should be doing aside from hand washing to prevent the bacterial infections? Also I house my Uro’ in a 100 gal tank and I have a young child who sleeps in the same room…are there concerns with the air quality with reptiles? I clean out the tank daily, and he has celci’ sand for tank flooring. I do not bring the Uromastyx out around the baby but my son frequently handles him

About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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