Factors influencing survivorship of rehabilitating green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) with fibropapillomatosis

J Zoo Wildl Med. 2014 Sep;45(3):507-19. doi: 10.1638/2013-0132R1.1.


Marine turtle fibropapillomatosis (FP) is a debilitating, infectious neoplastic disease that has reached epizootic proportions in several tropical and subtropical populations of green turtles (Chelonia mydas). FP represents an important health concern in sea turtle rehabilitation facilities. The objectives of this study were to describe the observed epidemiology, biology, and survival rates of turtles affected by FP (FP+ turtles) in a rehabilitation environment; to evaluate clinical parameters as predictors of survival in affected rehabilitating turtles; and to provide information about case progression scenarios and potential outcomes for FP+ sea turtle patients. A retrospective case series analysis was performed using the medical records of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center (GSTC), Jekyll Island, Georgia, USA, during 2009-2013. Information evaluated included signalment, morphometrics, presenting complaint, time to FP onset, tumor score (0-3), co-morbid conditions, diagnostic test results, therapeutic interventions, and case outcomes. Overall, FP was present in 27/362 (7.5%) of all sea turtles admitted to the GSTC for rehabilitation, either upon admittance or during their rehabilitation. Of these, 25 were green and 2 were Kemp's ridley turtles. Of 10 turtles that had only plaque-like FP lesions, 60% had natural tumor regression, all were released, and they were significantly more likely to survive than those with classic FP (P = 0.02 [0.27-0.75, 95% CI]). Turtles without ocular FP were eight times more likely to survive than those with ocular FP (odds ratio = 8.75, P = 0.032 [1.21-63.43, 95% CI]). Laser-mediated tumor removal surgery is the treatment of choice for FP+ patients at the GSTC; number of surgeries was not significantly related to case outcome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alphaherpesvirinae
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Herpesviridae Infections / mortality
  • Herpesviridae Infections / pathology
  • Herpesviridae Infections / veterinary*
  • Herpesviridae Infections / virology
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skin Neoplasms / mortality
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / veterinary*
  • Skin Neoplasms / virology
  • Survival Analysis
  • Tumor Virus Infections / mortality
  • Tumor Virus Infections / pathology
  • Tumor Virus Infections / veterinary*
  • Tumor Virus Infections / virology
  • Turtles*