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Microb Ecol. 2013 May;65(4):869-79. doi: 10.1007/s00248-013-0190-7. Epub 2013 Feb 19.

Special issue Oceans and Humans Health: the ecology of marine opportunists.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Corson Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


Opportunistic marine pathogens, like opportunistic terrestrial pathogens, are ubiquitous in the environment (waters, sediments, and organisms) and only cause disease in immune-compromised or stressed hosts. In this review, we discuss four host-pathogen interactions within the marine environment that are typically considered opportunistic: sea fan coral-fungus, eelgrass-Labyrinthula zosterae, sea fan-Labyrinthulomycetes, and hard clam-Quahog Parasite Unknown with particular focus on disease ecology, parasite pathology, host response, and known associated environmental conditions. Disease is a natural part of all ecosystems; however, in some cases, a shift in the balance between the host, pathogen, and the environment may lead to epizootics in natural or cultured populations. In marine systems, host-microbe interactions are less understood than their terrestrial counterparts. The biological and physical changes to the world's oceans, coupled with other anthropogenic influences, will likely lead to more opportunistic diseases in the marine environment.

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