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To investigate Mycoplasma agassizii-specific maternal antibodies in desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) hatchlings.

Sample Population

Plasma from 43 captive-reared desert tortoise hatchlings.


ELISA for M agassizii-specific antibodies was performed. Four hatchlings from 4 clutches of 3 M agassizii-seropositive females with chronic upper respiratory tract disease (URTD) were tested on the day of hatching (set 1), and 20 hatchlings from 4 clutches of 4 M agassizii-seropositive females with URTD and 19 hatchlings from 4 M agassizii-seronegative healthy females were tested at 4, 8, 12, and 29 months old (set 2). Immunoblot analysis was performed to determine immunoglobulin classes in yolk and plasma of hatchlings. To determine infection status of hatchlings, yolk, egg shell membranes (set 1), and nasal lavage fluid (sets 1 and 2) were examined for M agassizii by use of polymerase chain reaction.


Yolk and hatchling plasma had significantly lower amounts of specific antibodies than did plasma from adult females. The IgG and IgM antibodies were transferred, but M agassizii-specific antibodies were of the IgG class. Hatchlings were not infected with mycoplasmas. Offspring of sick females had significantly higher specific antibody titers than did offspring of healthy females. Titers were still significantly different in 1-year-old hatchlings.


Desert tortoise females transfer specific IgG and IgM antibodies to their offspring that are still detectable after 1 year.

Clinical Relevance

Infection with M agassizii may be misdiagnosed in hatchlings with persistent maternal antibodies. Passively acquired antibodies may have a role in pathogenesis of mycoplasma-induced respiratory tract disease and other diseases. (Am J Vet Res 1999;60:826–831)

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in American Journal of Veterinary Research