With the aim of evaluating the presence of Fusarium spp. in sea turtles with and without lesions and assessing the risk factors favoring colonization and/or infection, 74 loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) admitted to rescue and rehabilitation clinics in Italy were analyzed. The study compared 31 individuals with no apparent macroscopic lesions and 43 individuals with macroscopic lesions. Shell and skin samples were analyzed using Calcofluor white with 10% potassium hydroxide, standard histopathological examination, and fungal cultures. Fusarium spp. were isolated more frequently from animals with superficial lesions (39%) than from those with no macroscopic lesions (16%). Isolates from animals with superficial lesions were Fusarium solani species complex (FSSC) lineages haplotypes 9, 12, and 27 (unnamed lineages), FSSC-2 (Fusarium keratoplasticum), Fusarium oxysporum (27%), and Fusarium brachygibbosum (3%). In contrast, only F. solani haplotypes 9 and 12 were isolated from animals with no macroscopic lesions. The presence of lesions was identified as a risk factor for the occurrence of Fusarium spp. Of the 74 animals, only 7 (9.5%) scored positive on microscopic examination with Calcofluor, and histological examination of those 7 animals revealed necrosis, inflammatory cells, and fungal hyphae in the carapace and skin. The results of this study suggest that fusariosis should be included in the differential diagnosis of shell and skin lesions in sea turtles. Direct examination using Calcofluor and potassium hydroxide was not useful to diagnose the infection. Histopathological examination and fungal culture should be performed to ensure correct treatment and infection control.
- Caretta caretta
- loggerhead sea turtles