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Microbial Communities Associated with Healthy and White Syndrome-Affected Echinopora lamellosa in Aquaria and Experimental Treatment with the Antibiotic Ampicillin

Lookup NU author(s): David Smith, Dr Peter Leary, Professor John BythellORCiD, Dr Michael Sweet



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Prokaryotic and ciliate communities of healthy and aquarium White Syndrome (WS)-affected coral fragments were screened using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE). A significant difference (R = 0.907, p < 0.001) in 16S rRNA prokaryotic diversity was found between healthy (H), sloughed tissue (ST), WS-affected (WSU) and antibiotic treated (WST) samples. Although 3Vibriospp were found in WS-affected samples, two of these species were eliminated following ampicillin treatment, yet lesions continued to advance, suggesting they play a minor or secondary role in the pathogenesis. The thirdVibriosp increased slightly in relative abundance in diseased samples and was abundant in non-diseased samples. Interestingly, aTenacibaculumsp showed the greatest increase in relative abundance between healthy and WS-affected samples, demonstrating consistently high abundance across all WS-affected and treated samples, suggesting Tenacibaculumsp could be a more likely candidate for pathogenesis in this instance. In contrast to previous studies bacterial abundance did not vary significantly (ANOVA, F2, 6 = 1.000, p = 0.422) between H, ST, WSU or WST. Antimicrobial activity (assessed onVibrio harveyicultures) was limited in both H and WSU samples (8.1% ±8.2 and 8.0% ±2.5, respectively) and did not differ significantly (Kruskal-Wallis, χ2 (2) = 3.842, p = 0.146). APhilastersp, aCohnilembussp and aPseudokeronopsissp. were present in all WS-affected samples, but not in healthy samples. The exact role of ciliates in WS is yet to be determined, but it is proposed that they are at least responsible for the neat lesion boundary observed in the disease.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Smith D, Leary P, Craggs J, Bythell J, Sweet M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: PLoS ONE

Year: 2015

Volume: 10

Issue: 3

Online publication date: 20/03/2015

Acceptance date: 18/02/2015

Date deposited: 21/09/2015

ISSN (electronic): 1932-6203

Publisher: Public Library of Science


DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0121780

PubMed id: 25794037


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Funder referenceFunder name
NE/H020616/1Natural Environment Research Council