A stranded Kemp's ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) was rescued and treated at the National Aquarium in Baltimore (Maryland, USA) for inappetence and epidermal appendicular and plastral lesions. After 4 mo of care, the turtle developed a swollen left elbow joint. Within 1 mo of initial swelling, osteolytic lesions developed in the proximal radius and ulna. The elbow joint was surgically debrided, flushed, and cultured. The incision dehisced 10 days after surgery. Mycobacterium chelonae was cultured from the left elbow joint and from a skin nodule of the dorsum of the right front flipper. The turtle was euthanized due to apparent systemic infection with M. chelonae. Mycobacterium chelonae was isolated from cultures taken at necropsy of the lung, liver, spleen, kidney, and pericardium. Osteoarthritic infections with M. chelonae have not been reported in reptiles. Additionally, primary osteoarthritic diseases of synovial joints are uncommon in reptilian species. Due to the paucity of reports of mycobacterial diseases in sea turtles, the continued documentation of these cases will increase knowledge and understanding in caring for these endangered animals.
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Vol. 39 • No. 3