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J Zoo Wildl Med. 2000 Sep;31(3):303-14.

Morbidity and mortality associated with a new mycoplasma species from captive American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis).

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Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville 32610, USA.


Nine of 74 American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) from a captive Florida herd of 3-4-m-long, 200-350-kg, adult males greater than 30 yr of age died within a 10-day period during 1995. Nonspecific clinical signs included anorexia, lethargy, muscle weakness, paraparesis, bilateral white ocular discharge, and various degrees of periocular, facial, cervical, and limb edema. Pneumonia, pericarditis, and arthritis were found on postmortem evaluation of the spontaneously dead and euthanatized alligators. Rapidly growing mycoplasmas were identified by culture, and mycoplasma nucleotide sequences were identified by polymerase chain reaction testing of fresh lung and synovial fluid from an affected alligator. Culture of banked frozen lung from necropsy specimens and fresh lung and fresh synovial fluid from newly affected alligators confirmed the presence of a new mycoplasma species in seven of eight individuals. Oxytetracycline was administered, but related deaths continued for 6 mo until only 14 of the initial alligators remained. An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay to detect antibody was developed, and the organism was transmitted experimentally to naive juvenile alligators, although the source of the organism, Mycoplasma sp. (ATCC 700619), has not been identified. The alligator isolate is a novel species in the mycoplasma family because its nucleotide sequence does not match those of over 75 characterized mycoplasma species. Such factors as population density, animal age, and mycoplasmal virulence likely contributed to the course of disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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