The coccidian Caryospora cheloniae has been reported in mariculture-reared green sea turtles in the Caribbean1 and from an epizootic of wild greens in Australia2. In the past 1.5 years, four cases tested positive for organisms resembling the coccidian Caryospora spp. Two cases were juvenile green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and two were post-hatchling loggerheads (Caretta caretta), all wild turtles undergoing rehabilitation at Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, Florida, USA. One green and one loggerhead were incidental findings, but one juvenile green was clearly clinical with chronic debilitation and an extreme load of intestinal coccidia. The fourth case, a post-hatchling loggerhead, died shortly after admission and it is not known if the coccidiosis may have contributed to the death. Triazinones have been reported for treatment of two cases in green turtles.3 The three remaining cases presented here were treated with metronidazole orally (50 mg/kg q24h for 4–5 doses). The juvenile green with clinical disease quit eating after the second dose of metronidazole and had to be tube-fed to receive the third and fourth doses. As soon as treatment was ended, the turtle began eating again. All fecals have been negative beginning 21 days after treatment of this turtle. The goal with this clinical case was to reduce the parasite load until the turtle could be better stabilized, but treatment eliminated all shedding of organisms and no further treatment was necessary. It is possible that a reduced dose might have effectively eliminated the organism without appetite suppression. In the other two cases, one juvenile green and one post-hatchling loggerhead, no side effects of treatment were noted. In these two cases no oocysts were found two weeks following treatment and both were eventually released back into the wild. The clinical case is still undergoing rehabilitation, but is expected to fully recover and be released. The authors believe this is the first time coccidiosis with organisms resembling Caryospora spp. has been reported in loggerhead sea turtles. Confirmation via PCR is pending.
The authors thank the Walden Parasitology Laboratory at the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, for assistance in identification of the organisms.
* Presenting author
1. Leibovitz L, Rebell G, Boucher GC. Caryospora cheloniae sp. N.: a coccidial pathogen of mariculture-reared green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas mydas). J Wildl Dis. 1978;14:269–275.
2. Gordon AN, Kelly WR, Lester RJG. Epizootic mortality of free-living green turtles, Chelonia mydas, due to coccidiosis. J Wildl Dis. 1993;29:490–494.
3. Pelton CA, Boylan S, Stacey N, McIntosh A, Walsh M, Ranly M, Wellehan JFX. The use of triazinones for the treatment of coccidian morphologically resembling Caryospora cheloniae in green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas). In: Proceedings from the 44th Annual IAAAM Conference; April 21–26, 2013; Sausalito, CA; pp.81–82.