Free-living and captive chelonians might suffer from upper respiratory tract disease (URTD), a pathology primarily caused by Mycoplasma agassizii. Wild tortoises can also be an important reservoir of Salmonella spp., which are commensal in the host reptile but are potential zoonotic agents. Between July 2009 and June 2010, we screened free-living European tortoises (spur-thighed tortoises Testudo graeca, Hermann's tortoises Testudo hermanni, marginated tortoises Testudo marginata) temporarily housed in a wildlife center in Italy. We molecularly characterized 13 Mycoplasma isolates detected in all Testudo spp. studied, and three PCR-positive animals showed typical URTD clinical signs at the time of sampling. Three Salmonella enterica sero-types (Abony, Potsdam, Granlo), already related to reptile-associated human infections, were also identified. These results highlight the potential role played by wildlife recovery centers in the spread and transmission of pathogens among wild chelonians and to humans.
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Vol. 47 • No. 3