Cell-mediated and humoral immune status of free-ranging green turtles (Chelonia mydas) in Hawaii (USA) with and without fibropapillomatosis (FP) were assessed. Tumored and non-tumored turtles from Kaneohe Bay (KB) on the island of Oahu and from FP-free areas on the west (Kona/Kohala) coast of the island of Hawaii were sampled from April 1998 through February 1999. Turtles on Oahu were grouped (0–3) for severity of tumors with 0 for absence of tumors, 1 for light, 2 for moderate, and 3 for most severe. Turtles were weighed, straight carapace length measured and the regression slope of weight to straight carapace length compared between groups (KB0, KB1, KB2, KB3, Kona). Blood was assayed for differential white blood cell count, hematocrit, in vitro peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) proliferation in the presence of concanavalin A (ConA) and phytohaemagglutinin (PHA), and protein electrophoresis. On Oahu, heterophil/lymphocyte ratio increased while eosinophil/monocyte ratio decreased with increasing tumors score. Peripheral blood mononuclear cell proliferation indices for ConA and PHA were significantly lower for turtles with tumor scores 2 and 3. Tumor score 3 turtles (KB3) had significantly lower hematocrit, total protein, alpha 1, alpha 2, and gamma globulins than the other four groups. No significant differences in immune status were seen between non-tumored (or KB1) turtles from Oahu and Hawaii. There was no significant difference between groups in regression slopes of body condition to carapace length. We conclude that turtles with severe FP are imunosuppressed. Furthermore, the lack of significant difference in immune status between non-tumored (and KB1) turtles from Oahu and Kona/Kohala indicates that immunosuppression may not be a prerequisite for development of FP.
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Vol. 37 • No. 3