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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 137:101-108 (2019)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03426

Tumor re-growth, case outcome, and tumor scoring systems in rehabilitated green turtles with fibropapillomatosis

Annie Page-Karjian1,*, Justin R. Perrault2, Bette Zirkelbach3, Jamie Pescatore3, Rebecca Riley4, Melanie Stadler5, Trevor T. Zachariah5, Wendy Marks1, Terry M. Norton6

1Florida Atlantic University, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Fort Pierce, Florida 34946, USA
2Loggerhead Marinelife Center, Juno Beach, Florida 33408, USA
3The Turtle Hospital, Marathon, Florida 33050, USA
4Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Clearwater, Florida 33767, USA
5Sea Turtle Healing Center, Brevard Zoo, Melbourne, Florida 32940, USA
6Georgia Sea Turtle Center/Jekyll Island Authority, Jekyll Island, Georgia 31527, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Fibropapillomatosis (FP) is an infectious, neoplastic disease of major concern in sea turtle rehabilitation facilities. Rehabilitating sea turtles that undergo tumor removal surgery often have tumor regrowth and may experience mortality. We evaluated tumor score, removal, and regrowth in rehabilitating green sea turtles with FP in 4 rehabilitation facilities in the southeastern USA during 2009-2017. Of 756 cases, 312 (41%) underwent tumor removal surgery, 155 (50%) of those had tumor regrowth within an average of 46 ± 45 d, and 85 (27%) had multiple (>1) regrowth events. Of 756 turtles with FP, 563 (75%) did not survive after admission into a rehabilitation facility, including 283 (37%) that were euthanized and 280 that died without euthanasia (37%), and 193 survived, including 186 (25%) released and 7 (1%) placed in permanent captive care. Tumor removal surgery increased the odds of tumor regrowth but also enhanced survivorship, whereas tumor regrowth was not a significant predictor of case outcome. Three FP tumor scoring systems were used to assign tumor scores to 449 cases, and differing results emphasize that tumor scoring systems should be applied to the situations and/or location(s) for which they were intended. FP tumor score was not a significant predictor for the event or extent of FP tumor regrowth after surgical excision. Under current rehabilitation regimes, outcomes of rehabilitation for tumored turtles have a low probability of success. The results of this study may be used to help guide clinical decision-making and determine prognoses for rehabilitating sea turtles with FP.


KEY WORDS: Fibropapilloma · Green turtle · Chelonia mydas · Tumor · Rehabilitation · Sea turtle · Surgery


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Cite this article as: Page-Karjian A, Perrault JR, Zirkelbach B, Pescatore J and others (2019) Tumor re-growth, case outcome, and tumor scoring systems in rehabilitated green turtles with fibropapillomatosis. Dis Aquat Org 137:101-108. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03426

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