Microscopic and ultrastructural evidence of a herpesvirus-like virus in Hawaiian green turtles (Chelonia mydas) with fibropapillomatosis
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Microscopic and ultrastructural evidence of a herpesvirus-like virus in Hawaiian green turtles (Chelonia mydas) with fibropapillomatosis

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    This report by Drs. A. Alonso Aguirre and Terry R. Spraker presents the results of research in which evidence was found of a herpesvirus-like virus present in fibropapilloma tumors of the Hawaiian green turtle, Chelonia mydas. The work was conducted with funds awarded by the Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) Honolulu Laboratory's Marine Turtle Research Program.The results of previous research conducted under contracts awarded to Dr. Aguirre can be found in SWFSC Administrative Reports H-92-07C, H-93-07C, H-93-11C, H-94-4C, H-94-09C, and H-95-01C issued by the Honolulu Laboratory.

    The incidence of life-threatening tumors on green turtles in the Hawaiian Islands has grown to epidemic proportions during the past decade. A similar situation exists among green turtles at certain sites in Florida, the Caribbean, and elsewhere worldwide. The cause of this disease, called fibropapillomatosis, remains unknown. However, a herpes virus has been strongly implicated in studies conducted with green turtles in Florida. Death appears to be the usual result of the disease, although the impact to afflicted populations has not been fully assessed. The disease represents one more potentially significant threat to the survival of all green turtles. Recent finding in Florida have shown that the disease is now also occurring in increasing numbers in the loggerhead turtle, Caretta caretta.

    The nature of fibropapillomatosis, along with its exact cause and mode of transmission, must be determined in order to develop a long-term management program of containment and prevention. The findings of the present report constitute progress in this direction which must be followed by additional research.

    Because this report was prepared by independent investigators, its statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA.

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