Fatal spirorchiidosis in European pond turtles (Emys orbicularis) in Switzerland.

Schönbächler, Katja; Olias, Philipp; Richard, Olivia K.; Origgi, Francesco B.; Dervas, Eva; Hoby, Stefan; Basso, Walter; Berenguer Veiga, Inês (2022). Fatal spirorchiidosis in European pond turtles (Emys orbicularis) in Switzerland. International journal for parasitology. Parasites and wildlife, 17, pp. 144-151. Elsevier 10.1016/j.ijppaw.2022.01.004

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Infections with intravascular digenean trematodes of the Spirorchiidae family (spirorchiidoses) are of great conservation concern both in marine and freshwater turtles due to their pathogenic potential. Between 2014 and 2021, Spirorchis sp. infections associated with granulomatous inflammation and sudden death were detected in European pond turtles (Emys orbicularis) from three conservation breeding facilities in Switzerland. Blood fluke eggs associated with lesions were found in the intestine, spleen, testis, skeletal musculature, heart, kidneys, stomach, pancreas, liver, lung, and meninges from nine pond turtles submitted for necropsy and in the intestinal content from five of these animals. Two novel polymerase chain reactions (PCRs) targeting the 28S ribosomal RNA gene and the ITS2 region and subsequent sequencing revealed 100% nucleotide identity with a Spirorchis sp. previously isolated from an Escambia map turtle (Graptemys ernsti) in the USA. Our findings suggest a spill-over event secondary to direct or indirect contact with invasive North American turtle species in Switzerland. We describe the clinical, haematological, ultrasonographical, endoscopical, parasitological, pathological, and molecular findings associated with spirorchiid blood fluke infections of the Spirorchis genus in E. orbicularis, as well as the biosecurity measures that were developed to prevent the spread of this parasite among breeding and highly endangered free-ranging E. orbicularis populations in Switzerland.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Infectious Diseases and Pathobiology (DIP) > Institute of Parasitology
05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Infectious Diseases and Pathobiology (DIP) > Institute of Animal Pathology

UniBE Contributor:

Olias, Philipp Alexander; Richard, Olivia; Origgi, Francesco; Basso, Walter Ubaldo and Berenguer Veiga, Inês Margarida


500 Science
500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
500 Science > 590 Animals (Zoology)
600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
600 Technology > 630 Agriculture








Katharina Gerber-Paizs

Date Deposited:

08 Mar 2022 19:01

Last Modified:

08 Mar 2022 19:01

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Conservation Emys orbicularis Freshwater turtle Invasive species Spirorchiidosis Spirorchis sp.





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