Respiratory Complications Caused by a New Lungworm in a Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Caretta caretta
An adult female loggerhead sea turtle, Caretta caretta, was admitted to the Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium after being found floating off the Florida Gulf Coast. On admission, the turtle was lethargic, although somewhat responsive, with mild evidence of respiratory compromise. Since pneumonia is relatively common in stranded sea turtles, the animal was started on systemic antibiotics as well as subcutaneous fluids. Initial bloodwork indicated hyperglycemia and hypoalbuminemia with a normal white cell count. The turtle was receiving a fish gruel via stomach tube for nourishment. During the first week in rehabilitation, the white cell count increased. Rattling and gurgling was audible on respiration, and a mucous discharge was noted in the oral cavity. The discharge was drained twice daily from the trachea by tilting the turtle's head and body downward while performing coupage therapy. A new antibiotic was initiated after one week, but the white count continued to increase, and the discharge continued with intermittent evidence of blood in the mucous. A bronchial lavage was performed for the purpose of culturing any organisms that were present in the lungs and bronchi and to examine the cytology of the fluid. Microscopic examination revealed the presence of tiny, live nematodes in the bronchi. Initially these worms were thought to be one of the common gastric nematode species found in loggerheads. Further examination revealed them to be a new species, being called Angiostoma carettae (Nematoda: Angiostomatidae).1 Stages present in the mucous from the lungs included eggs, larvae, and adults of both sexes. This nematode is the first species of lungworm observed in any chelonian. Unfortunately, the turtle died shortly thereafter. Necropsy and histopathology revealed no worms deep in the lungs. The worms and associated lesions appeared to be confined to the trachea and bronchi.
1. Bursey CR, CA Manire. In review. Angiostoma carettae sp. N. (Nematoda: Angiostomatidae) from the loggerhead sea turtle, Caretta caretta (Testudines: Cheloniidae), Florida, U.S.A. Submitted to Comparative Parasitology