Two Herpesviruses Associated with Disease in Atlantic Loggerhead Turtles (Caretta caretta)
IAAAM Archive
Brian A. Stacy1; James F.X. Wellehan1 Jr.; Milagros D. Brookins1; April L. Childress1; Elliott R. Jacobson1; Allen Foley2; Sadie S. Coberley3; Charles A. Manire4; Nancy S. Mettee5; Michael Garner6
1University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine, Gainesville, FL, USA; 2Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Jacksonville, FL, USA; 3Interdisciplinary Program in Biomedical Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA; 4Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota, FL, USA; 5Marinelife Center, Juno Beach, FL, USA; 6Northwest ZooPath, Monroe, WA, USA


Herpesviruses are associated with morbidity and mortality in maricultured green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and fibropapillomatosis in wild populations of multiple sea turtle species.1-3 With the exception of cheloniid fibropapilloma-associated herpesvirus (CFPHV), disease associated with other herpesviruses has not been documented in loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) or wild sea turtles of any species. Six necropsied Atlantic loggerhead turtles had gross and histological evidence of viral infection, including oral, respiratory, cutaneous, and genital lesions characterized by necrosis, ulceration, and syncytial cell formation with intranuclear inclusion bodies. All affected sea turtles had other primary health problems, including severe boat-strike injuries and brevetoxicosis, or were chronically debilitated with multiple problems. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) targeting the herpesvirus DNA-dependent-DNA polymerase gene was performed on lesions and yielded two unique herpesviral sequences. One virus was associated with respiratory and genital lesions, and the polymerase sequence was most similar (90% homology) to that of lung-eye-trachea disease-associated virus (LETV) based on the limited available LETV sequence data. The second virus was associated with oral and cutaneous lesions resembling Grey-patch disease, a herpesvirus-associated disease of captive C. mydas. Comparative sequence analysis supports that these viruses are related to other chelonid herpesviruses within the subfamily Alphaherpesvirinae.


The authors would like to thank the staff of Mote Marine Laboratory, Marinelife Center at Juno Beach and The Turtle Hospital for animal care and records. Also, many thanks to Karrie Singel, Rhonda Bailey, Kim Sonderson, Nashika Brewer, and Ed deMaye of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and other participants in the Florida Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network.


1.  Jacobson ER, Gaskin JM, Roelke M, Greiner EC, J Allen. 1986. Conjunctivitis, tracheitis, and pneumonia associated with herpesvirus infection in green sea turtles. JAVMA 189: 1020-1023.

2.  Jacobson ER, Buergelt C, Williams B, RK Harris. 1991. Herpesvirus in cutaneous fibropapillomas of the green turtle Chelonia mydas. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms. 12: 1-6.

3.  Rebell G, Rywlin A, H Haines. 1975. A herpesvirus-type agent associated with skin lesions of green turtles in aquaculture. American Journal of Veterinary Research. 36: 1221-1224

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Brian A. Stacy

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