JUN 10, 2021 3:00 AM PDT

Antibiotics Fight Mysterious Coral Disease

WRITTEN BY: Anne Medina

Coral reefs besieged by climate change and pollutants have a new line of defense against disease—amoxicillin, an antibiotic commonly prescribed to humans. According to research published April in the journal Scientific Reports, amoxicillin had a 95% success rate at treating lesions caused by stony coral tissue loss disease in great star coral.  

SCTLD was first documented in 2014 and remains poorly understood. Its impact on stony corals in Florida and the greater Caribbean has been devastating, making treatment a high priority for reef managers.

In this study, researchers treated great star coral — a red-orange coral that often forms large boulders or plates — off the coast of Lauderdale-by-the-sea, Florida. Divers scored channels in the coral to separate SCTLD lesions from healthy tissue and applied two experimental treatment conditions. The first consisted of amoxicillin suspended in a silicone base specially formulated to prevent the antibiotic from leaching into the water column, while the second used chlorinated epoxy.

Over the next 11 months, coral lesions treated with amoxicillin were found to have “quiesced”—meaning the colony had no obvious lesions or active tissue loss—at a rate of 95%.

Another study, published in 2020, demonstrated that amoxicillin’s short-term effectiveness against SCTLD in a variety of coral species: boulder brain coral, grooved brain coral, symmetrical brain coral, mountainous star coral and great star coral. Effectiveness ranged from 67-90% in halting lesions over the course of a month.

Notably, in both studies, application of topical antibiotics didn’t prevent the development of new lesions on the same colony—but as-yet-unpublished research at the Florida National Marine sanctuary indicates that spot treatment as new lesions appear is extremely effective. While this amoxicillin paste won’t be a magic bullet for stony coral tissue loss disease, experts say its ease of application by SCUBA divers could make it a powerful conservation tool.

About the Author
BS in Biology
Anne is a science writer based in the Southeastern United States, one of the unsung biodiversity hotspots of the world. She channels her passion for animals and ecology into her work as a science communicator, making the latest discoveries accessible and engaging for the public.
You May Also Like
AUG 16, 2022
Immunology
Two Studies Describe Powerful Antibodies That Neutralize SARS-CoV-2
AUG 16, 2022
Two Studies Describe Powerful Antibodies That Neutralize SARS-CoV-2
SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, has mutated many times into new variants, some that we don't hear about, while others ...
AUG 24, 2022
Microbiology
This Bizarre Spiky Sack Turns Out Not to be Our Earliest Ancestor
AUG 24, 2022
This Bizarre Spiky Sack Turns Out Not to be Our Earliest Ancestor
It was once hypothesized that a strange, microscopic creature called Saccorhytus, a spiked animal with no anus, was the ...
AUG 24, 2022
Plants & Animals
Threat Assessment of U.S Trees Provides Blueprint for Conservation Efforts
AUG 24, 2022
Threat Assessment of U.S Trees Provides Blueprint for Conservation Efforts
Extinction rates have accelerated around the globe. Changes in climate and habitat loss, in particular, are driving more ...
SEP 16, 2022
Genetics & Genomics
Grad Student Highlights: Shannon Barry (Florida Institute of Technology)
SEP 16, 2022
Grad Student Highlights: Shannon Barry (Florida Institute of Technology)
This interview series is focused on the graduate student experience across all STEM fields that allows them to get their ...
SEP 23, 2022
Genetics & Genomics
Modern Humans Make More Neurons Than Neanderthals
SEP 23, 2022
Modern Humans Make More Neurons Than Neanderthals
Scientists have been searching for an answer to the question of what makes us human for decades. Many have looked to our ...
SEP 23, 2022
Plants & Animals
Brown Algae Pigment Could Have Beneficial Health, Biofuel Applications
SEP 23, 2022
Brown Algae Pigment Could Have Beneficial Health, Biofuel Applications
When we think of algae, what do we think of? Probably, you think of thick gobs of green floating along the edges of a po ...
Loading Comments...