Coral disease may be a result of human fecal bacteria

June 25, 2002
The latest issue of a scientific journal has made a connection between human fecal bacteria and a Caribbean coral disease known as whitepox, which is wiping out the coral.

By Sylvie Dale, Online Editor

June 25, 2002 -- The latest issue of a scientific journal has made a connection between human fecal bacteria and a Caribbean coral disease known as whitepox, which is wiping out the coral.

Scientists have known since 1996 that whitepox has been causing serious problems for the Florida Keys and the Caribbean region. But the article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that maintaining the water quality will be important to the survival of the coral, Scientific American reported.

The source of the bacteria (Serratia marcescens) which is killing the coral is not known for sure, but researchers do know that it is present in the gut of humans and other animals.

Whitepox is targeting elkhorn coral, or Acropora palmata, once known as one of the most common species in the area. Now it is being recommended for inclusion in the endangered species list, the report stated.

Researchers are theorizing that the coral has become susceptible to the bacteria because of a rise in temperature, which slows down the coral growth, and an increase in the concentration of the bacteria, which would spread more quickly because of the warmth.
The disease can infect 2 to 10 square centimeters of reef tissue daily.

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