Aerobic bacterial cultures of the tympanic cavity of the middle ear were performed in eight eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina) with aural abscesses and 15 eastern box turtles without aural abscesses (controls) that were admitted to The Wildlife Center of Virginia, Virginia, USA during 2003. Twenty-two bacterial isolates were identified from 17 turtles including 10 gram-negative and 12 gram-positive bacteria. Ten of 15 control animals had bacterial growth, resulting in identification of 13 bacteria, including six gram-negative and seven gram-positive agents. Seven of eight turtles with aural abscesses had bacterial growth, and 10 isolates were identified, including four gram-negative and six gram-positive organisms. The most frequently isolated bacteria from control animals were Micrococcus luteus (n=3) and Pantoea agglomerans (n=2). Morganella morganii (n=2) was the only species isolated from the tympanic cavity of more than one turtle with aural abscesses. Staphylococcus epidermidis (n=2) was the only species isolated from both groups. A trend toward greater bacterial growth in tympanic cavities of affected turtles compared with turtles without aural abscesses was noted. No single bacterial agent was responsible for aural abscesses in free-ranging eastern box turtles in this study, an observation consistent with the hypothesis that aerobic bacteria are not primary pathogens, but secondary opportunistic invaders of environmental origin.
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Vol. 42 • No. 4