Region’s stony corals face pandemic of their own


Pharmaceutical paste being spread on diseased coral off the U.S. Virgin Islands. (Photo courtesy of Sonora Meiling)

A disease that infects and rapidly kills stony corals is spreading across the Caribbean, alarming scientists and prompting government responses that could include the underwater application of a medicinal paste containing the antibiotic amoxicillin. Stony coral tissue-loss disease, which causes tissue to slough off, leaving behind the coral’s skeleton, has reached 17 countries and territories. It kills entire coral colonies within weeks and has stoked fears it could spread to reefs in the Pacific Ocean. “This is a big, big deal,” says Dana Wusinich-Mendez, Atlantic and Caribbean Team Lead for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coral Reef Conservation Program. “This disease spreads across the reef area and across the individual coral very quickly and almost always results in complete mortality of an infected coral.” The disease targets nearly two dozen species of stony coral, the hard coral which secretes the calcium-carbonate skeletons that undergird... [Log in to read more]

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