Epidemiology of blood flukes (Digenea: Spirorchiidae) in sea turtles from Tyrrhenian and Adriatic Seas, off Italy.


Department of Integrative Marine Ecology, Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Villa Comunale, 80121, Naples, Italy. [Email]


BACKGROUND : The Spirorchiidae is a family of blood flukes parasitizing turtles. Spirorchiids may cause a wide range of inflammatory reactions in the vascular system of their host being frequently implicated with stranding and death of sea turtles worldwide. Recent studies revealed the presence of two spirorchiid species in the Mediterranean basin. Our study presents comparative epidemiological data of spirorchiid infections in loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) stranded during an eight-year period from Adriatic and Tyrrhenian Seas, and the first report of Neospirorchis Neogen-11 in a green turtle (Chelonia mydas).
METHODS : We screened a total of 319 carcasses of loggerhead turtles stranded from January 2011 to December 2018 along the Tyrrhenian coast (n = 111) and the north-western Adriatic coast (n = 208) of Italy using traditional (copromicroscopy and histopathology) and molecular assays. Three green turtles from the Tyrrhenian coast were also included in the study.
RESULTS : A total of 56 (17.5%) loggerhead turtles and one green turtle (33.3%) were found to be infected with spirorchiid flukes. Amplification, sequencing of the ITS2 region of the ribosomal RNA gene cluster and BLAST analysis confirmed the presence of Hapalotrema mistroides and Neospirorchis Neogen-11 in 51 (16.0%) and 24 (7.5%) loggerhead turtles, respectively, and Neospirorchis Neogen-11 in an infected green turtle. Differences in prevalence of infection between the two sampling areas were found.
CONCLUSIONS : The risk of spirorchiid infection in the Tyrrhenian Sea is lower than in the Adriatic Sea and in general the risk of infection in the Mediterranean is lower than in other geographical locations. Differences in the prevalence of infection between the two sampling areas were related to the differences of regional habitats supporting different abundance of spirorchiid intermediate hosts. A systematic monitoring to evaluate the progress of the infection is recommended, as well as studies on the occurrence and distribution of spirorchiid species from other Mediterranean areas.


Adriatic Sea,Caretta caretta,Chelonia mydas,Green turtle,Hapalotrema mistroides,Loggerhead turtle,Mediterranean,Neospirorchis Neogen-11,Spirorchiidiosis,Tyrrhenian Sea,

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