Upper respiratory tract disease (URTD) has been associated with major losses of free-ranging desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) in the southwestern United States. This prompted a clinical examination of 63 free-ranging desert tortoises for signs of URTD and sampling for Mycoplasma agassizii, the causative agent of URTD. Tortoises were sampled from three sites in the eastern Mojave Desert (1992–93), and from three sites in the Sonoran Desert (1992–94). Plasma samples were tested for antibodies to M. agassizii using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Nasal aspirate samples from 12 Sonoran tortoises were tested using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test directed at the 16S rRNA gene of M. agassizii. Nasal aspirate samples from all tortoises were cultured for M. agassizii. In the Mojave Desert, nine tortoises had clinical signs of URTD and eight were seropositive for M. agassizii. In the Sonoran Desert, there were no clinical signs of URTD, but two tortoises were seropositive, and two tortoises had positive PCR results.
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