Wild animal meat represents an important source of protein for many people in central Africa. Also known as bushmeat, this meat commodity is derived from wild animals hunted under uncontrolled conditions, transported to distant markets under rudimentary or no hygienic methods, and often eviscerated >24 hr after death. Considering the plausible role of wildlife as a reservoir for bacterial zoonotic pathogens, bushmeat may be an important public health risk in Central Africa. This cross-sectional survey served to evaluate the presence of Campylobacter, Salmonella, and Shigella in the muscle tissue of 128 wild animal carcasses from several hunted wildlife species (guenons [Cercopithecus spp.], collared mangabeys [Cercocebus torquatus], gray-cheeked mangabeys [Lophocebus albigena], African crested porcupines [Atherurus africanus], duikers [Cephalophus spp.], and red river hogs [Potamocherus porcus]) sold in two markets of Port-Gentil, Gabon, in July and August 2010. Salmonella was detected from one carcass; no Campylobacter or Shigella was detected. If Campylobacter and Shigella were present, the maximum expected prevalence was estimated at 6% and 1%, respectively. In light of such very low apparent muscle contamination levels, bushmeat likely does not represent a health risk per se with respect to Campylobacter, Salmonella, or Shigella. However, because carcass evisceration and skinning can take place within households prior to consumption, consumers should follow strict hygiene and food safety practices to avoid potential health hazards associated with the handling, preparation, or consumption of bushmeat.
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Vol. 48 • No. 3