Mycoplasma alligatoris was the suspected etiology of an epidemic of acute multisystemic inflammatory disease which emerged in captive American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) in Florida (USA) in 1995. In an experimental inoculation study conducted from April through October 1999, 18 alligators were inoculated with 102, 104, or 106 colony forming units (CFU) of M. alligatoris by instillation into the glottis. As early as 1 wk post-inoculation (PI), mycoplasma were cultured from blood of three of six alligators inoculated with 106 CFU. Two of those died and the third was euthanatized within 4 wk PI. Necropsy gross findings included fibrinous polyserositis and polyarthritis. Histopathologic changes in affected individuals included pulmonary edema, interstitial pneumonia, pericarditis, myocarditis, meningitis, and synovitis. Mycoplasma were cultured quantitatively in high numbers from trachea, lung, coelomic cavity, liver, spleen, interior of pericardial sac, heart, blood, brain, and limb joints. In alligators inoculated with 106 CFU, heterophilia and moderate hyperglycemia peaked about 4 wk PI, and seroconversion occurred by 6 to 8 wk PI. Necropsy gross and histologic findings were generally unremarkable for the surviving alligators inoculated with 106 CFU, alligators inoculated with 102 or 104 CFU, and four uninoculated control alligators. Mycoplasma were not cultured at any time point from those alligators. The findings confirm that M. alligatoris can cause fulminant inflammatory disease and rapid death of alligators.
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Vol. 37 • No. 4