Plasma samples collected in 1990 from free-ranging desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) with and without clinical signs of upper respiratory tract disease (URTD) from Las Vegas Valley, Clark County, Nevada (USA), were tested by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for antibodies to Mycoplasma agassizii, a causative agent of URTD. The relationship between clinical signs and ELISA test results was evaluated. Of the 144 tortoises tested, 45 (31%) had clinical signs while 72 (50%) were seropositive. Presence of clinical signs of URTD was positively related to positive ELISA results (P < 0.0001) regardless of sex or age of the animal. Eighty-four percent of animals with clinical signs tested seropositive. Mucous nasal discharge, the most severe and obvious of the clinical signs, was highly predictive for exposure to M. agassizii based on the ELISA. Ninety-three percent of tortoises with mucous nasal discharge tested seropositive. Serologic testing for M. agassizii antibodies supported clinical signs as useful indicators of URTD, but it also detected potential subclinical infection in 34 (34%) of 99 animals without clinical signs.
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