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Herpes can cause global decline in Coral Reefs?

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Herpes can cause global decline in Coral Reefs?

Post Number:#1  Postby Narco » Tue Apr 17, 2012 12:26 pm

Never knew herpes can cause threat to Corals as well. Read on guys  :D :

Researches are investigating whether the herpes virus could be a cause in the global decline in coral reefs

Scientists have established that herpes is found in marine ecosystems such as coral reefs and can be induced when the coral is under environmental stress.

In a research paper published in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, scientists point out that coral declines are reaching crisis proportions but little has been done so far to explore viral disease as one of the mechanisms for this problem.
'Coral abundance in the Caribbean Sea has gone down about 80 percent in the past 30-40 years, and about one-third of the corals around the world are threatened with extinction,' said Rebecca Vega-Thurber, an assistant professor of microbiology at Oregon State University.

'We've identified 22 kinds of emerging disease that affect corals, but still don't know the pathogens that cause most of them,' Vega-Thurber said. 'Most researchers have looked only at bacteria. But we suspect viruses may play a role in this as well, and it's important to learn more about what is causing this problem. Corals are the building blocks of the tropical seas.'

A research program at OSU may help explain the underlying causes of coral decline, Vega-Thurber said. The research is one of the most comprehensive analyses yet done on the types of viruses in a marine animal. It may also shed light on the broader range of viruses that affect not only corals but many other animals, including humans.

One of the surprises from recent research was the predominance in corals of herpes viruses – similar but not identical to the herpes virus that can infect humans. Herpes viruses appear to constitute a majority of the viruses found in corals, and one experiment showed that herpes-like viral sequences were produced in coral tissues after acute episodes of stress.

'We were shocked to find that so many coral viruses were in the herpes family,' Vega-Thurber said. 'But corals are one of the oldest animal life forms, evolving around 500 million years ago, and herpes is a very old family of viruses that can infect almost every kind of animal. Herpes and corals may have evolved together.

'But just because you harbor a virus doesn't mean you are getting sick from it,' Vega-Thurber said. 'This is part of what we have to pin down with further research.'

Some of the possible causes of coral decline that have been identified so far include global warming that causes coral bleaching, loss of symbiotic algae that help nourish corals, pollution such as sewage runoff, and human-coral interactions.

A 'mucus' sometimes found on corals can harbor human-borne viruses, and levels of these viruses have been correlated with terrestrial human population density.

'We have found that nutrient increases from pollution can cause increased levels of viral infection, as do warmer water and physical handling,' Vega-Thurber said. 'Now we have to determine if those increases in infection cause actual diseases that are killing the coral.'

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