Coral disease diagnostics: What's between a plague and a band?

T. D. Ainsworth, E. Kramasky-Winter, Y. Loya, O. Hoegh-Guldberg, M. Fine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Recently, reports of coral disease have increased significantly across the world's tropical oceans. Despite increasing efforts to understand the changing incidence of coral disease, very few primary pathogens have been identified, and most studies remain dependent on the external appearance of corals for diagnosis. Given this situation, our current understanding of coral disease and the progression and underlying causes thereof is very limited. In the present study, we use structural and microbial studies to differentiate different forms of black band disease: atypical black band disease and typical black band disease. Atypical black band diseased corals were infected with the black band disease microbial consortium yet did not show any of the typical external signs of black band disease based on macroscopic observations. In previous studies, these examples, here referred to as atypical black band disease, would have not been correctly diagnosed. We also differentiate white syndrome from white diseases on the basis of tissue structure and the presence/absence of microbial associates. White diseases are those with dense bacterial communities associated with lesions of symbiont loss and/or extensive necrosis of tissues, while white syndromes are characteristically bacterium free, with evidence for extensive programmed cell death/ apoptosis associated with the lesion and the adjacent tissues. The pathology of coral disease as a whole requires further investigation. This study emphasizes the importance of going beyond the external macroscopic signs of coral disease for accurate disease diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)981-992
Number of pages12
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2007
Externally publishedYes


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