Human Feces Bacteria Jumped to Coral, Caused Die-off
As seas become warmer and more polluted, our bacteria may move in.
(Watch a video on the elkhorn coral die-off.)
Elkhorn coral was once the most common in the Caribbean, but its populations have been reduced by nearly 90 percent over the past 15 years, and it now faces "extremely high risk of extinction in the wild," according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
One of the major factors in the elkhorn coral die-off was white pox, an infection that kills the thin layer of living cells on the coral surface to reveal the skeleton beneath.
A 2002 study found that white pox was caused by Serratia marcescens, a bacterium that is common in humans and that occasionally causes septicemia, an infection that results from bacteria in the blood.