Comparative pathology and pathogenesis of spontaneous and experimentally induced fibropapillomas of green turtles (Chelonia mydas)

L. H. Herbst, E. R. Jacobson, P. A. Klein, G. H. Balazs, R. Moretti, T. Brown, J. P. Sundberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Tumor biopsy samples from 25 Floridian and 15 Hawaiian green turtles (Chelonia mydas) with spontaneous green turtle fibropapillomatosis (GTFP) and from 27 captive-reared green turtles with experimentally induced GTFP were examined microscopically to differentiate the histologic features that result from GTFP pathogenesis and those that result from incidental factors that may vary according to geographic region. Common histologic features for spontaneous and experimentally induced tumors included fibroblast proliferation in the superficial dermis, epidermal acanthosis and hyperkeratosis, epidermal basal cell degeneration with dermal-epidermal cleft formation, spinous layer degeneration with intraepidermal vesicle and pustule formation, and ulceration. Visceral tumors, found in eight of 10 (80%) free-ranging turtles with cutaneous disease that were examined after death, had extensive interstitial fibrous proliferation. The presence of spirorchid trematode eggs and associated foreign body granulomas, common secondary findings within spontaneous tumors, varied by geographic location, and these findings were not observed in experimentally induced tumors. Eosinophilic intranuclear inclusions and intranuclear herpesvirus-associated antigen immunoreactivity were found in 18 of 38 (47%) experimentally induced cutaneous tumors and nine of 119 (7.5%) spontaneous tumors from Floridian but not Hawaiian turtles. The possible involvement of GTFP-associated herpesvirus in the pathogenesis of epidermal degenerative changes and GTFP pathogenesis is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)551-564
Number of pages14
JournalVeterinary Pathology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1999


  • Chelonia mydas
  • Dermatitis
  • Fibropapilloma
  • Green turtles
  • Herpesvirus
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Tumor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Veterinary


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