Evidence of Immune Compromise in Association with Green Turtle Fibropapillomatosis
IAAAM 1999
René A. Varela1; Peter L. Lutz1; Carolyn Cray2; Greg Bossart2
1Department of Biology, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL, USA (Currently: University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, USA); 2Division of Comparative Pathology, University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, FL, USA


Green Turtle Fibropapillomatosis (GTFP) is a debilitating disease in the endangered green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) that has been increasing in incidence over the last thirty years. To develop an understanding of GTFP, this investigation sought to attain an immune profile of the healthy green sea turtle to be used in determining the immunological health status of GTFP afflicted turtles. A "healthy" group of animals from the Miami Seaquarium was used to compare with "diseased" animals from the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida. Blood taken from the cranial cervical sinus of each animal was then analyzed via general chemistry, hematology, specialized chemistry, and in vitro lymphocyte proliferation to establish the best diagnostic tools. General chemistry, hematology, and specialized chemistry proved to be useful in determining the general health status of these animals. In vitro cell proliferation indicated that green sea turtle lymphocytes could be used quite effectively to assess the immune status of these animals. In contrast to the strong response elicited by healthy turtles, the lymphocytes of turtles affected with GTFP lack the ability to respond to antigens. This data definitively shows that t-like and b-like cells of GTFP-afflicted green sea turtles are severely depressed, giving convincing evidence of an immune dysfunction in association with fibropapillomatosis.

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René A. Varela
University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine
Philadelphia, PA, USA

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