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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 113:75-80 (2015)  -  DOI:

First reported outbreak of severe spirorchiidiasis in Emys orbicularis, probably resulting from a parasite spillover event

Raúl Iglesias1,*, José M. García-Estévez1, César Ayres2, Antonio Acuña3, Adolfo Cordero-Rivera4

1Laboratorio de Parasitología, Facultad de Biología, Campus Lagoas-Marcosende, Universidad de Vigo, 36310 Vigo, Spain
2AHE (Asociación Herpetológica Española), Apartado de correos 191, 28911 Leganés, Madrid, Spain
3Veterinary surgeon, OAM Parque das Ciencias Vigozoo, A Madroa, Teis 36316, Vigo, Spain
4Evolutionary Ecology Group, Dept. Ecology and Animal Biology, EUE Forestal, Campus Universitario A Xunqueira s/n, University of Vigo, 36005 Pontevedra, Spain
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The importance of disease-mediated invasions and the role of parasite spillover as a substantial threat to the conservation of global biodiversity are now well known. Although competition between invasive sliders Trachemys scripta elegans and indigenous European turtles has been extensively studied, the impact of this invasive species on diseases affecting native populations is poorly known. During winter 2012-2013 an unusual event was detected in a population of Emys orbicularis (Linnaeus, 1758) inhabiting a pond system in Galicia (NW Spain). Most turtles were lethargic and some had lost mobility of limbs and tail. Necropsies were performed on 11 turtles that were found dead or dying at this site. Blood flukes belonging to the species Spirorchis elegans were found inhabiting the vascular system of 3 turtles, while numerous fluke eggs were trapped in the vascular system, brain, lung, heart, liver, kidney, spleen, and/or gastrointestinal tissues of all necropsied animals. Characteristic lesions included miliary egg granulomas, which were mostly found on serosal surfaces, particularly of the small intestine, as well as endocarditis, arteritis, and thrombosis. The most probable cause of death in the 3 turtle specimens which were also examined histologically was a necrotic enteritis with secondary bacterial infection associated with a massive egg embolism. The North American origin of S. elegans, the absence of prior recorded epizootics in the outbreak area, and the habitual presence of its type host, the highly invasive red-eared slider, in this area suggest a new case of parasite spillover resulting in a severe emerging disease.

KEY WORDS: Emys orbicularis · Blood flukes · Spirorchis · Spirorchidiiasis · Mortality · Parasite spillover · Trachemys scripta

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Cite this article as: Iglesias R, García-Estévez JM, Ayres C, Acuña A, Cordero-Rivera A (2015) First reported outbreak of severe spirorchiidiasis in Emys orbicularis, probably resulting from a parasite spillover event. Dis Aquat Org 113:75-80.

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