Dermatomycosis caused by Paranannizziopsis australasiensis in five tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus) and a coastal bearded dragon (Pogona barbata) in a zoological collection in New Zealand

Dermatomycosis caused by Paranannizziopsis australasiensis in five tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus) and a coastal bearded dragon (Pogona barbata) in a zoological collection in New Zealand
Peer reviewed

Abstract

CASE HISTORY: Health monitoring of tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus) at Auckland Zoo between 2001 and 2009 showed that 58/93 tuatara had been affected by dermatitis of unknown origin. From 2011 onwards, cases of suspected fungal dermatitis underwent extensive diagnostic investigations.

CLINCAL FINDINGS: Six cases of dermatomycosis were attributed to Paranannizziopsis australasiensis, five in tuatara and one in a coastal bearded dragon (Pogona barbata). Cases presented typically as raised, yellow to brown encrustations on the skin. Severe cases progressed to necrotising ulcerative dermatitis, and in the bearded dragon to fatal systemic mycosis. Following topical and systemic treatments, lesions resolved in all five tuatara.

LABORATORY FINDINGS: Histopathological examination of skin biopsy samples revealed dermatitis with intralesional septate branching hyphae. Fungal culture yielded isolates morphologically resembling Chrysosporium species, and isolates were submitted for molecular confirmation and sequencing of DNA.

DIAGNOSIS: All six cases were confirmed as dermatitis due to infection with P. australasiensis, on the basis of fungal culture and DNA sequencing of isolates.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE: These are the first reported cases of dermatomycosis associated with P. australasiensis infection in tuatara, and the first cases in which systemic therapeutic agents have been used in the treatment of such disease. Tuatara at the Auckland Zoo are now routinely examined every 3 months and tissue samples from any lesions sent for histopathology and fungal culture. Further work to elucidate the epidemiology and significance of P. australasiensis infections in reptiles in New Zealand is important for both welfare and conservation purposes.


KEY WORDS: Dermatomycosis, tuatara, Paranannizziopsis australasiensis, coastal bearded dragon

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