University of Florida (go gator research!) is looking into a treatment that could help stop the loss of coral, which is nice because coral reefs help stop the loss of Florida due to beach erosion. They’re using probiotics. Just like you would use it to restore a healthy gut biome, a dose of “good bacteria” can help restore a healthy coral reef:
Microbial ecologist Julie Meyer and her collaborators want to put beneficial bacteria to work fighting a coral disease that has spread around Florida and now reached the Caribbean.
By untangling the genetics of bacteria living around corals, she’s working to protect reefs from stony coral tissue loss, which attacks more than 20 coral species — imperiling tourism, fisheries and the storm surge protection reefs provide.
A statewide team is developing probiotic pastes made from the microbiome of healthy corals. When smeared on affected coral, the treatment should fight the disease by making its own antibiotics.
“Instead of us going out and applying antibiotics, which would be really expensive, it’s a one-time application, with the idea that if these probiotic bacteria get established, they can continue to make antibiotics as needed,” Meyer says.
After sequencing the genomes of potential probiotic strains and identifying how they work, the team will track how the strains colonize and alter the microbiome. UF leads the genetic sequencing component, while the Smithsonian Marine Station and Nova Southeastern University will test the treatments in the field.