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AbstractMetagenomic and electron microscopy studies confirm that the coral microbiome contains a rich diversity and abundance of viruses. While there have been no definitive tests of disease causation by viruses in corals, viruses have been implicated as coral pathogens in a number of studies. Growing evidence also indicates that latent viral infections can compromise the algal symbionts under environmental stress and may be involved in the coral bleaching response. Conversely, bacteriophages and archaeal phage viruses are abundant in the microbiome of healthy corals and are likely to be involved in complex ecological networks, genetic material transfer and selective co-evolution within the surface mucus layers and tissues. The relative importance of viral control of bacterial and archaeal populations is unknown, but they are almost certain to be exerting some level of control on the composition and maintenance of the coral microbiome. While rapid leaps in the capability to detect viruses have been made due to advances in metagenomics and bioinformatics, these approaches need now to be integrated with in vitro culture and challenge experiments to assess the functional roles of viruses in health and disease, and it is imperative that interactions with other members of the coral microbiome are taken into account when assessing disease causation.
CitationSweet, M. J. and Bythell, J. (2016) The role of viruses in coral health and disease, Journal of Invertebrate Pathology, DOI 10.1016/j.jip.2016.12.005
JournalJournal of Invertebrate Pathology