Clinical signs of upper respiratory tract disease-like syndrome (URTD-LS) were observed in free-ranging eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina) from Virginia, USA (May 2001–August 2003), some of which also had aural abscesses. After a Mycoplasma sp. was detected by polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a study was undertaken to better define the range of clinical signs of disease and to distinguish mycoplasma-associated URTD-LS from other suspected causes of URTD-LS and aural abscessation in box turtles. Nasal and/or ocular swabs (from turtles possessing URTD-LS) or nasal washes (from asymptomatic turtles) were collected from turtles May 2001–August 2003; samples were assayed for Mycoplasma spp., chelonian herpesvirus, and iridoviruses by PCR testing. A partial DNA sequence (933 bases) of the small ribosomal subunit (16S rRNA) of the box turtle Mycoplasma sp. was analyzed to determine its phylogenetic relatedness to other Mycoplasma spp. of veterinary interest. Mycoplasma sp. was detected in seven (six with clinical signs of URTD-LS; one asymptomatic) of 23 fortuitously collected animals from six of 11 Virginia counties. Clinical signs in Mycoplasma sp.–infected animals included unilateral to bilateral serous to mucopurulent nasal discharge, epiphora, ocular edema, and conjunctival injection. Five Mycoplasma sp.–positive animals possessed aural abscesses; two did not. Analysis of the mycoplasma 16S rRNA gene sequence from one asymptomatic and three symptomatic animals representing four counties revealed a consensus Mycoplasma sp. sequence closely related to, but distinct from, M. agassizii. None of the samples collected contained viral DNA of chelonian herpesviruses or invertebrate and vertebrate (including FV3) iridoviruses. In conclusion, a new Mycoplasma sp. was associated with URTD-LS in native box turtles from Virginia that was not codetected with other suspected causes of chelonian upper respiratory disease; there was no proof of a direct relationship between aural abscessation and the Mycoplasma sp.
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Vol. 42 • No. 2