Photo: Toby Hudson, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-3.0; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Coral_Outcrop_Flynn_Reef.jpg

Photo: Toby Hudson, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-3.0; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Coral_Outcrop_Flynn_Reef.jpg

Setting apart one section of coral as a control group, he and his TAU team chose an area of diseased coral for testing. Sure enough, the injection stopped the bacteria from growing or spreading to the other corals in the treated group, but bacteria on the untreated coral not only progressed at a rapid rate, but it also spread to the nearby species.

Coral as the Great Protector

Coral reefs protect the coastline of scores of countries and they are essential to maintaining a healthy marine biodiversity. According to an article in popsci.com, over the past two decades, nearly one third of the coral throughout the world has been destroyed. Although some of this may be blamed on pollution or irresponsible fishing practices, much of it is due to rising ocean temperatures.  As water gets warmer, harmful bacteria multiply and attack the natural algae living in the coral polyps. Without the native algae to photosynthesize the sun’s light into energy, the coral turns white.

Startling Discoveries in Healthy Coral

The lingering question was why a large percentage of corals native to the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf avoided disease. Rosenberg concluded that just like people, coral is home to thousands of various bacterial species. While the warmer temperatures in the Red Sea attracts a nonresident bacteria that attacks the algae, the temperature spike triggers the corals’ natural bacteria to help them adapt. As an even bigger surprise, Rosenberg and his colleagues found that much of the uninfected and healthy coral already have BA3 virus in their biological composition. Additionally, he found that regional viruses need to be developed to treat specific diseases that appear in coral in other areas of the world.

With these positive results in protecting coral, Rosenberg’s next challenge is to develop a method of large-scale application.

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