Changes in the bacterial community associated with black band disease in a Red Sea coral, Favia sp., in relation to disease phases

Luba Arotsker, Esti Kramarsky-Winter, Eitan Ben-Dov, Nachshon Siboni, Ariel Kushmaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Changes of the black band disease (BBD)-associated microbial consortium on the surface of a Favia sp. coral colony were assessed in relation to the different disease phases. A number of highly active bacterial groups changed in numbers as the BBD disease signs changed. These included Gamma- and Epsilonproteobacteria, Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes groups. One cyanobacterium strain, BGP10-4ST (FJ210722), was constantly present in the disease interface and adjacent tissues of the affected corals, regardless of disease phase. The dynamics of the operational taxonomic units (OTUs) of this BBD-specific strain provide a marker regarding the disease phase. The disease's active phase is characterized by a wide dark band progressing along the tissue-skeleton interface and by numerous bacterial OTUs. Cyanobacterial OTUs decreased in numbers as the disease signs waned, perhaps opening a niche for additional microorganisms. Even when black band signs disappeared there was a consistent though low abundance of the BBD-specific cyanobacteria (BGP10-4ST), and the microbial community of the disease-skeleton interface remained surprisingly similar to the original band community. These results provide an indication that the persistence of even low numbers of this BBD-specific cyanobacterium in coral tissues during the non-active (or subclinical) state could facilitate reinitiation of BBD signs during the following summer. This may indicate that this bacterium is major constituent of the disease and that its persistence and ability to infiltrate the coral tissues may act to facilitate the assembly of the other BBD-specific groups of bacteria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-58
Number of pages12
JournalDiseases of Aquatic Organisms
Issue number1
StatePublished - 17 Sep 2015


  • Black band disease
  • Coral
  • Cyanobacteria
  • Microbiota
  • Red Sea

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science


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