Conjunctivitis is common in captive chelonians. This study evaluated conjunctival swabs from 34 healthy and diseased chelonians (18 tortoises, 16 turtles) for presence of bacteria and fungi.
There was bacterial growth from all samples, with 21/34 (62%) having more than 1 isolate. The presence of more than 1 type of bacteria did not correlate with presence of clinical disease.
Tortoises were more likely to have gram-positive isolates, whereas turtles (in line with their living in confined aquatic environments, likely favoring high numbers of enteric bacteria) more commonly had gram-negative organisms. Only 1 aquatic turtle showed signs of conjunctivitis, however, and was the only animal testing positive for Staphylococcus haemolyticus and Morganella morganii. Of concern, the M morganii isolate was resistant to various antimicrobials often used in chelonians. All isolated organisms were potentially clinically relevant, mostly as opportunistic agents, for animals and humans.