Prevalence of box turtle adenovirus in eastern box turtles (terrapene carolina carolina) presented to a wildlife rehabilitation center in Virginia, USA

Dana Franzen-Klein, Laura Adamovicz, David McRuer, Stella A. Carroll, James F.X. Wellehan, Matthew C. Allender

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina) are a native North American species with a declining population trend that may be attributable to habitat fragmentation, vehicle collisions, and disease. Adenoviral infections can cause significant morbidity and mortality in captive reptile populations. Adenoviruses have been documented in box turtles, but their occurrence and impact in wild populations are unknown. A disease survey was performed at The Wildlife Center of Virginia, USA, to assess the prevalence of box turtle adenovirus (BTAdV) in wild eastern box turtles and evaluate potential associations with clinical disease. Swabs from the oral cavity, including the choanal slit, and the cloaca were collected from 106 eastern box turtles from July 2015 through June 2016. The quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) primer detected both ornate box turtle adenovirus 1 and eastern box turtle adenovirus. The resulting qPCR adenovirus prevalence was 55.7% (n = 59). Most animals (99.3%) that tested positive for BTAdV had fewer than 100 viral copies/ng DNA. This study did not find a statistically significant association between cause of admission, age, sex, outcome, and BTAdV qPCR status. However, the probability of BTAdV detection was 1.5 times higher in rehabilitation turtles compared with wild turtles (P = 0.01). Albumin was significantly lower in qPCR BTAdV-positive turtles (P = 0.007). Hypoalbuminemia is not generally associated with adenovirus infections in other species, and no obvious clinical cause for this abnormality was identified. The results of this study suggest that eastern box turtles may harbor BTAdV infections at low levels and that infection is rarely associated with clinical disease, potentially identifying BTAdV as a host-adapted pathogen. Future studies should focus on this pathogen's ability to induce clinical disease and its potential impact on recovery efforts for this species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)769-777
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 9 2020


  • Adenovirus
  • Terrapene carolina carolina
  • eastern box turtle
  • epidemiology
  • prevalence
  • rehabilitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • veterinary(all)


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