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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Jun 25;99(13):8725-30. Epub 2002 Jun 19.

The etiology of white pox, a lethal disease of the Caribbean elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata.

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  • 1Department of Marine Sciences, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA.


Populations of the shallow-water Caribbean elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata, are being decimated by white pox disease, with losses of living cover in the Florida Keys typically in excess of 70%. The rate of tissue loss is rapid, averaging 2.5 cm2 x day(-1), and is greatest during periods of seasonally elevated temperature. In Florida, the spread of white pox fits the contagion model, with nearest neighbors most susceptible to infection. In this report, we identify a common fecal enterobacterium, Serratia marcescens, as the causal agent of white pox. This is the first time, to our knowledge, that a bacterial species associated with the human gut has been shown to be a marine invertebrate pathogen.

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