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Wild birds are potential vehicles of zoonotic pathogen transmission to humans. The zoonotic concern increases for small wild birds like house sparrows (Passer domesticus) and starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) which are hunted in developing countries and commercialised in Italy for human consumption. From June to October 2011, 330 house sparrows and 140 starlings were hunted and slaughtered. Deepfrozen carcasses were transported to Italy and stored for 6-8 months at -18°C. Aerobic colony count and Salmonella detection in carcasses were assessed following standard microbiological methods (ISO 4833:2003 and ISO 6579:2004, respectively). Carcasses of house sparrows showed higher levels of aerobic bacteria in comparison to starling carcasses (5.7 vs 3.2 log10 CFU/g). Moreover, 7 out of 11 lots of carcasses of house sparrows were positive for Salmonella. Among the 18 isolates of Salmonella, 14 were S. Typhimurium, 2 were S. Enteritidis, and 2 were not distinguishable. All of them were susceptible to antibiotics. All tested carcasses of starling were Salmonella negative. Deep-freezing was not efficient as a decontamination technique on carcasses of house sparrows.
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