Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Articles

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Frontiers in Marine Science


stony coral tissue loss disease, disease treatment, antibiotics, chlorinated epoxy, mixed effects logistic regression model





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Since 2014, stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) has led to large-scale mortality of over 20 coral species throughout the Florida Reef Tract. In 2019, in-water disease intervention strategies were implemented to treat affected corals. Two treatment strategies were employed: (1) topical application of an amoxicillin paste directly to disease margins, and (2) application of a chlorinated epoxy to disease margins as well as an adjacent “disease break” trench. Effectiveness of treatments on 2,379 lesions from 725 corals representing five species was evaluated using mixed effects logistic regression models which demonstrated substantially greater effectiveness of amoxicillin compared to chlorine-treated lesions across all species up to 3 months post-treatment. As a result of the failed chlorinated epoxy treatments, any new lesions that appeared during subsequent monitoring events were treated with amoxicillin paste, and all corals were monitored and treated as needed approximately every 2 months for up to 24 months. The health status of 1664 amoxicillin-treated corals during each monitoring event was used to model the probability of a coral being uninfected over time. Models included species and geographic regions as variables. The appearance of new lesions (reinfection rates) varied by species, and offshore sites showed greater reinfection rates than inshore sites; however, all sites and species exhibited a decreased probability of reinfection with time since initial treatment. We conclude that topical amoxicillin treatments are highly effective at halting SCTLD lesions and that through initial and follow-up treatments as needed, colonies and reef sites will progress toward a lower prevalence of SCTLD.


This work was conducted under Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary permits FKNMS-2019-115 and FKNMS-2020-077. Application of antibiotics was authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Minor Use and Minor Species (FDA-OMUMS). We are grateful for the assistance provided by Force Blue during the initial treatment applications.

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© 2021 Neely, Shea, Macaulay, Hower and Dobler. 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.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.





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