Not that I needed one more reason to avoid them, but a recent CDC release warns about the risk of Salmonella infection associated with rattlesnake pills. These pills, a literal variation of the old “snake oil” remedies, are apparently marketed as a cure for a variety of ailments, including cancer and HIV. Yet, the best evidence of any effect of these pills is their ability to induce salmonellosis.
That’s not particularly surprising if raw snake goes into these pills, as reptiles are a key Salmonella reservoir. The concerning part is that the people who are taking these pills (e.g. those with cancer, HIV or other serious problems) are the last group you want to have exposed to Salmonella, since they are more likely to develop serious or fatal disease as a result of infection.
The CDC report describes one person in Kansas who got sick after taking rattlesnake pills that were purchased in Mexico. Salmonella isolated from that person matched a Salmonella Oranienburg strain that was isolated from Mexican rattlesnake pills in a previous investigation.
While I realize the desire to try anything when someone is seriously ill, some thought has to go into the potential adverse effects. “All natural” and “safe” are not synonyms (for example, botulinum toxin is one of the most toxic substances on the planet, yet it’s organic and all natural). Regulation of products such as these is very difficult, especially those sourced in other countries. Education is therefore critically important. More information about Salmonella, as it pertains to pets, can be found on the Worms & Germs Resources – Pets page.