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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2004 Oct;70(10):5955-62.

Bacterial community associated with black band disease in corals.

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Department of Geology, University of Illinois, 1301 W. Green St., Urbana, IL 61801, USA.


Black band disease (BBD) is a virulent polymicrobial disease primarily affecting massive-framework-building species of scleractinian corals. While it has been well established that the BBD bacterial mat is dominated by a cyanobacterium, the quantitative composition of the BBD bacterial mat community has not described previously. Terminal-restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis was used to characterize the infectious bacterial community of the bacterial mat causing BBD. These analyses revealed that the bacterial composition of the BBD mat does not vary between different coral species but does vary when different species of cyanobacteria are dominant within the mat. On the basis of the results of a new method developed to identify organisms detected by T-RFLP analysis, our data show that besides the cyanobacterium, five species of the division Firmicutes, two species of the Cytophaga-Flexibacter-Bacteroides (CFB) group, and one species of delta-proteobacteria are also consistently abundant within the infectious mat. Of these dominant taxa, six were consistently detected in healthy corals. However, four of the six were found in much higher numbers in BBD mats than in healthy corals. One species of the CFB group and one species of Firmicutes were not always associated with the bacterial communities present in healthy corals. Of the eight dominant bacteria identified, two species were previously found in clone libraries obtained from BBD samples; however, these were not previously recognized as important. Furthermore, despite having been described as an important component of the pathogenetic mat, a Beggiatoa species was not detected in any of the samples analyzed. These results will permit the dominant BBD bacteria to be targeted for isolation and culturing experiments aimed at deciphering the disease etiology.

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