Fireworm a coral bleach disease vector?

Geoff Read at
Wed Apr 9 21:32:47 EST 2003

Reported to me as in the news in New Scientist.

Sussman, M.; Loya, Y.; Fine, M.; Rosenberg, E. (2003). The marine fireworm 
Hermodice carunculata is a winter reservoir and spring-summer vector for 
the coral-bleaching pathogen Vibrio shiloi. Environmental microbiology 5(4): 
250-255. doi: 210.1046/j.1462-2920.2003.00424.x.  

Vibrio shiloi, the causative agent of bleaching of the coral Oculina patagonica 
in the Mediterranean Sea, is present in all bleached O. patagonica corals in 
the summer (25-30°C), but can be not detected in the coral during the winter 
(16-20°C). Furthermore, the pathogen can not survive in O. patagonica at 
temperatures below 20°C. Using fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) 
with a V. shiloi-specific oligonucleotide probe, we found that the marine 
fireworm Hermodice caranculata is a winter reservoir for V. shiloi. Worms 
taken directly from the sea during the winter contained  10 power 8 V. shiloi 
per worm by FISH analysis. However, colony-forming units (cfu) revealed 
only 4.1-18.3   10 power 4 V. shiloi per worm, indicating that  99.9% of them 
were in the viable-but-not-culturable (VBNC) state. When worms were 
infected with V. shiloi, most of the bacteria adhered to the worm within 24 h 
and then penetrated into epidermal cells. By 48 h, less than 10 negative 
power 4 of the intact V. shiloi in the worm gave rise to colonies, suggesting 
that they differentiated inside the worm into the VBNC state. When worms 
infected with V. shiloi were placed in aquaria containing O. patagonica , all of 
the corals showed small patches of bleached tissue in 7-10 days and total 
bleaching in 17 days. This is the first report of a reservoir and vector for a 
coral disease.  

  Geoff Read < at>

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