Deciphering coral disease dynamics: integrating host, microbiome, and the changing environment

Thurber, Rebecca Vega, Mydlarz, Laura D., Brandt, Marilyn, Harvell, Drew, Weil, Ernesto, Raymundo, Laurie, Willis, Bette L., Langevin, Stan, Tracy, Allison M., Littman, Raechel, Kemp, Keri M., Dawkins, Phoebe, Prager, Katherine C., Garren, Melissa, and Lamb, Joleah (2020) Deciphering coral disease dynamics: integrating host, microbiome, and the changing environment. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 8. 575927.

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Diseases of tropical reef organisms is an intensive area of study, but despite significant advances in methodology and the global knowledge base, identifying the proximate causes of disease outbreaks remains difficult. The dynamics of infectious wildlife diseases are known to be influenced by shifting interactions among the host, pathogen, and other members of the microbiome, and a collective body of work clearly demonstrates that this is also the case for the main foundation species on reefs, corals. Yet, among wildlife, outbreaks of coral diseases stand out as being driven largely by a changing environment. These outbreaks contributed not only to significant losses of coral species but also to whole ecosystem regime shifts. Here we suggest that to better decipher the disease dynamics of corals, we must integrate more holistic and modern paradigms that consider multiple and variable interactions among the three major players in epizootics: the host, its associated microbiome, and the environment. In this perspective, we discuss how expanding the pathogen component of the classic host-pathogen-environment disease triad to incorporate shifts in the microbiome leading to dysbiosis provides a better model for understanding coral disease dynamics. We outline and discuss issues arising when evaluating each component of this trio and make suggestions for bridging gaps between them. We further suggest that to best tackle these challenges, researchers must adjust standard paradigms, like the classic one pathogen-one disease model, that, to date, have been ineffectual at uncovering many of the emergent properties of coral reef disease dynamics. Lastly, we make recommendations for ways forward in the fields of marine disease ecology and the future of coral reef conservation and restoration given these observations.

Item ID: 66199
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2296-701X
Keywords: coral, reefs, disease, microbiome, dysbiosis, climate change, physiology, genotype
Copyright Information: Copyright © 2020 Vega Thurber, Mydlarz, Brandt, Harvell, Weil, Raymundo, Willis, Langevin, Tracy, Littman, Kemp, Dawkins, Prager, Garren and Lamb. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Funders: National Science Foundation (NSF), US Department of Defense (DOD)
Projects and Grants: NSF Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease RCN grant (OCE-1215977), NSF DOB 1442306, NSF OCE 1635913, NSF OCE 1712134, NSF VI EPSCoR 0814417, NSF OCE-1335657, NSF DEB-1557022, DOD Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program Award RC-2635
Date Deposited: 06 Jan 2021 07:46
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 50%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3107 Microbiology > 310702 Infectious agents @ 50%
SEO Codes: 28 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 2801 Expanding knowledge > 280102 Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences @ 100%
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