Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Microbial disease and the coral holobiont

December 1, 2009

Tropical coral reefs harbour a reservoir of enormous biodiversity that is increasingly threatened by direct human activities and indirect global climate shifts. Emerging coral diseases are one serious threat implicated in extensive reef deterioration through disruption of the integrity of the coral holobiont – a complex symbiosis between the coral animal, endobiotic alga and an array of microorganisms. In this article, we review our current understanding of the role of microorganisms in coral health and disease, and highlight the pressing interdisciplinary research priorities required to elucidate the mechanisms of disease. We advocate an approach that applies knowledge gained from experiences in human and veterinary medicine, integrated into multidisciplinary studies that investigate the interactions between host, agent and environment of a given coral disease. These approaches include robust and precise disease diagnosis, standardised ecological methods and application of rapidly developing DNA, RNA and protein technologies, alongside established histological, microbial ecology and ecological expertise. Such approaches will allow a better understanding of the causes of coral mortality and coral reef declines and help assess potential management options to mitigate their effects in the longer term.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2009
Title Microbial disease and the coral holobiont
DOI 10.1016/j.tim.2009.09.004
Authors David G. Bourne, Mary E. Garren, Thierry M. Work, Eugene Rosenberg, Garriet W. Smith, C. Drew Harvell
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Trends in Microbiology
Index ID 70191348
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Wildlife Health Center

Related Content