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The role of viruses in coral health and disease

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Michael Sweet, Professor John BythellORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


Metagenomic and electron microscopy studies confirm that the coral microbiome contains a rich diversity and abundance of viruses. Although no viral pathogen of the coral host animal has been formally identified, the detection of a number of known invertebrate viruses including those related to Oyster herpesvirus (OsHV-1) suggests that viral pathogens of specific coral diseases likely exist. Growing evidence also indicates that latent viral infections can compromise the integrity of the algal symbionts under environmental stress and may be involved in the coral bleaching response. Bacteriophages and archaeal phage viruses are abundant and almost certainly play a role in controlling bacterial populations and may also be involved in complex ecological networks, genetic material transfer and selective coevolution within the surface mucus layers. Therefore these viruses are likely to be exerting some level of control on the composition and maintenance of the coral microbiome. While rapid leaps in metagenomic capabilities have been made, these approaches need now to be integrated with in vitro culture and challenge experiments to assess the functional roles of viruses in health and disease.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Sweet MJ, Bythell JC

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Invertebrate Pathology

Year: 2017

Volume: 147

Pages: 136-144

Print publication date: 01/07/2017

Online publication date: 18/12/2016

Acceptance date: 13/12/2016

Date deposited: 18/09/2017

ISSN (print): 0022-2011

ISSN (electronic): 1096-0805

Publisher: Academic Press


DOI: 10.1016/j.jip.2016.12.005


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