Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

First reported outbreak of severe spirorchiidiasis in Emys orbicularis, probably resulting from a parasite spillover event.

Abstract

The importance of disease-mediated invasions and the role of parasite spillover as a substantial threat to the conservation of global biodiversity are now well known. Although competition between invasive sliders Trachemys scripta elegans and indigenous European turtles has been extensively studied, the impact of this invasive species on diseases affecting native populations is poorly known. During winter 2012-2013 an unusual event was detected in a population of Emys orbicularis (Linnaeus, 1758) inhabiting a pond system in Galicia (NW Spain). Most turtles were lethargic and some had lost mobility of limbs and tail. Necropsies were performed on 11 turtles that were found dead or dying at this site. Blood flukes belonging to the species Spirorchis elegans were found inhabiting the vascular system of 3 turtles, while numerous fluke eggs were trapped in the vascular system, brain, lung, heart, liver, kidney, spleen, and/or gastrointestinal tissues of all necropsied animals. Characteristic lesions included miliary egg granulomas, which were mostly found on serosal surfaces, particularly of the small intestine, as well as endocarditis, arteritis, and thrombosis. The most probable cause of death in the 3 turtle specimens which were also examined histologically was a necrotic enteritis with secondary bacterial infection associated with a massive egg embolism. The North American origin of S. elegans, the absence of prior recorded epizootics in the outbreak area, and the habitual presence of its type host, the highly invasive red-eared slider, in this area suggest a new case of parasite spillover resulting in a severe emerging disease.