Cutaneous papillomatous lesions were biopsied from three captive Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris) at Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park (HSSWP), Homosassa, Florida, USA, and from six free-ranging Florida manatees from Crystal and Homosassa rivers, Florida. Total DNA extracted from these lesions was assayed for the presence of papilloma virus genomes using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) with primers that target the L1 capsid protein gene. The amplification generated DNA fragments 458 base pairs in length that encompassed a highly conserved domain within the L1 capsid protein and translated into identical polypeptides of 152 amino acids, suggesting the involvement of a single papilloma virus genotype. Multiple amino acid sequence and phylogenetic analyses of the L1 fragment indicated that the Florida manatee papilloma virus is a unique and quite distinct papillomavirus from other known papilloma viruses. The emergence of this new pathogen raises concerns about its potential impact on the already endangered Florida manatee.
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Vol. 41 • No. 2