Arch Virol (2000) 145: 1885–1893
Detection of herpesviral sequences in tissues of green turtles
with ﬁbropapilloma by polymerase chain reaction
, A. A. Aguirre
, G. H. Balazs
V. R. Nerurkar
, and R. Yanagihara
Retrovirology Research Laboratory, Paciﬁc Biomedical Research Center,
University of Hawaii at Manoa, Leahi Hospital, Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A.
Wildlife Preservation Trust International/Center for Conservation Medicine,
Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine, North Grafton, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
National Marine Fisheries Services, Southwest Fisheries Science Center,
Honolulu Laboratory, Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A.
Accepted March 3, 2000
Summary. An alpha-herpesvirus has been associated recently with green turtle
ﬁbropapilloma (FP). To further clarify the role of this newfound green turtle her-
pesvirus (GTHV) in the pathogenesis of FP, various normal-appearing tissues
and organs (including skin, eye, brain, heart, liver, spleen, intestine, lung, kid-
ney, nerve, gonad, tongue, gall bladder, urinary bladder, thyroid and peripheral
blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from blood) and tumor tissues from 19 green
turtles (Chelonia mydas) with FP, and tissues from three green turtles without FP,
collected during 1997 to 1999 in the Hawaiian Islands, were tested for GTHV
sequences by nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR), using GTHV-speciﬁc
oligonuclotide primers. GTHV sequences were detected in all tumors (51/51)
and most tissues (133/167) of tumored turtles. By contrast, such sequences were
undetectable in tissues (0/28) of three non-tumored turtles. Analysis of GTHV se-
quences detected in different tissues and tumors revealed a low degree of genetic
diversity (<1%). The wide distribution of this newfound herpesvirus in tumors
and tissues of tumored green turtles and its absence in tissues of non-tumored
turtles, argues for an etiologic role in FP.
Fibropapillomatosis is a debilitating, frequently fatal disease of green turtles,
Chelonia mydas, a marine species protected under provisions of the U.S. Endan-
gered Species Act. Since the initial report of these tumors in green turtles in