Evidence of infection in tortoises by Chlamydia-like organisms that are genetically distinct from known Chlamydiaceae species

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Nasal lavage fluid was collected from 155 tortoises, mostly Testudo spp., that were kept as companion animals and suffered from nasal discharge. Examination for chlamydial DNA by PCR assays targeting the ompA, ompB, and groESL genes, as well as the 16S rRNA signature region and the 16S-23S intergenic spacer, respectively, revealed 16 (10.3%) positive animals. Sequence analysis of PCR products indicated high homology to the family Chlamydiaceae. Phylogenetic trees constructed from partial sequences of the ompA and 16S rRNA genes showed that the present samples clustered outside the nine species of Chlamydia and Chlamydophila. Sequences of the nearest relative, Chlamydophila pecorum, were still clearly distinct from those of the positive tortoise samples. This suggests that the tortoises had been infected by Chlamydia-like agents, the taxonomic identity and pathogenic importance of which has yet to be established.

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