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Open Access Fatal Trematodiasis in Research Turtles

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During a 5-year period, 16 freshwater turtles (Trachemys scripta elegans and Chrysemys picta) that were purchased for research purposes died spontaneously. Clinical signs of disease included lethargy, constant swimming, swimming sideways, hemiplegia, and ulcerative lesions on the carapace. At necropsy, subcutaneous edema, hepatic necrosis, pancreatic necrosis, splenic necrosis, and intestinal parasites were identified. Histologically, trematode eggs were seen within the liver, brain, spleen, kidney, myocardium, lung, pancreas, testes, and bladder, and were associated with granulomatous reactions. The size and distribution of the eggs were consistent with Spirorchis sp. infection, although adults could not be found to confirm the species. Spirorchid flukes are 1 to 2 mm long and inhabit the heart and blood vessels where they produce eggs. Spirorchis parvus are capable of invading various tissues, including pancreas and the central nervous system. The pathogenicity of the flukes seems to be related to widespread deposition of the eggs, which may block small blood vessels within the intestines, causing necrosis and bacteremia. Antemortem diagnosis is made by direct examination of fecal smears for eggs. Postmortem diagnosis is accomplished by examination of tissues for adult parasites and microgranulomas associated with the fluke eggs. The parasite requires a snail intermediate host to complete its life cycle. Intramuscular or oral administration of praziquantel is reported to be an effective treatment.

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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Comparative Medicine, The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, The Pennsylvania State University, Hershey, Pennsylvania

Publication date: 1998-08-01

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  • Comparative Medicine (CM), an international journal of comparative and experimental medicine, is the leading English-language publication in the field and is ranked by the Science Citation Index in the upper third of all scientific journals. The mission of CM is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information that expands biomedical knowledge and promotes human and animal health through the study of laboratory animal disease, animal models of disease, and basic biologic mechanisms related to disease in people and animals.

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