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Analysis of coral mucus as an improved medium for detection of enteric microbes and for determining patterns of sewage contamination in reef environments

August 22, 2004

Traditional fecal indicator bacteria are often subject to a high degree of die-off and dilution in tropical marine waters, particularly in offshore areas such as coral reefs. Furthermore, these microbes are often not associated with human waste, and their presence may not be indicative of health risk. To address the offshore extent of wastewater contamination in the Florida Keys reef tract, we assayed coral surfaces for the presence of human-specific enteric viruses. The overlying water column and surface mucopolysaccharide (mucus) layers from scleractinian corals were sampled from three stations along a nearshore-to-offshore transect beginning at Long Key in the middle Florida Keys, USA. Samples were assayed for standard bacterial water quality indicators (fecal coliform bacteria and enterococci) and for human enteroviruses by direct reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). The concentration of the bacterial indicators was greatest at the nearshore station in both the water column and corals, and decreased with distance from shore; no indicator bacteria were detected at the offshore station. Whereas human enteroviruses were not detected in any of the water column samples, they were detected in 50–80% of coral mucus samples at each station. These data provide evidence that human sewage is impacting the reef tract up to ~6.5 km from shore in the middle Florida Keys and that coral mucus is an efficient trap for viral markers associated with anthropogenic pollution.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2004
Title Analysis of coral mucus as an improved medium for detection of enteric microbes and for determining patterns of sewage contamination in reef environments
DOI 10.1007/s10393-004-0132-4
Authors Erin K. Lipp, Dale W. Griffin
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title EcoHealth
Series Number
Index ID 70121476
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coastal and Marine Geology Program

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