Coral Reefs

, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 665–670 | Cite as

Phage therapy of the white plague-like disease of Favia favus in the Red Sea

  • I. Atad
  • A. Zvuloni
  • Y. Loya
  • E. RosenbergEmail author


Coral disease is a major factor in the global decline of coral reefs. At present, there are no known procedures for preventing or treating infectious diseases of corals. Immunization is not possible because corals have a restricted adaptive immune system and antibiotics are neither ecologically safe nor practical in an open system. Thus, we tested phage therapy as an alternative therapeutic method for treating diseased corals. Phage BA3, specific to the coral pathogen Thalassomonas loyana, inhibited the progression of the white plague-like disease and transmission to healthy corals in the Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea. Only one out of 19 (5 %) of the healthy corals became infected when placed near phage-treated diseased corals, whereas 11 out of 18 (61 %) healthy corals were infected in the no-phage control. This is the first successful treatment for a coral disease in the sea. We posit that phage therapy of certain coral diseases is achievable in situ.


Phage therapy Coral disease White plague-like disease Favia Thalassomonas 



This work was supported by the Israel Science Foundation No.1169/07. We thank G. Sharon and E. Mills for help with the field experiments.


  1. Adams MH (1959) Bacteriophage. Interscience Publishers, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. Barash Y, Sulam R, Loya Y, Rosenberg E (2005) Bacterial Strain BA-3 and a filterable factor cause a white plague-like disease in corals from the Eilat coral reef. Aquat Microb Ecol 40:183–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ben-Haim Y, Rosenberg E (2002) A novel Vibrio sp. pathogen of coral Pocillopora damicornis. Mar Biol 141:47–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ben-Haim Y, Thompson FL, Thompson CC, Cnockaert MC, Hoste B, Swings J, Rosenberg E (2003) Vibrio coralliilyticus sp. nov., a temperature-dependent pathogen of the coral Pocillopora damicornis. Int J Syst Evol Microbiol 53:309–315PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carlton RM, Noordman WH, Biswas B, de Meester ED, Loessner MJ (2005) Bacteriophage P100 for control of Listeria monocytogenes in foods: genome sequence, bioinformatic analyses, oral toxicity study, and application Regul. Toxicol Pharm 43:301–312Google Scholar
  6. Duckworth DH, Gulig PA (2002) Bacteriophages: potential treatment for bacterial infections. BioDrugs 16:57–62PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Efrony R, Loya Y, Bacharach E, Rosenberg E (2007) Phage therapy of coral disease. Coral Reefs 26:7–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Efrony R, Atad I, Rosenberg E (2009) Phage therapy of coral White Plague Disease: properties of Phage BA3. Curr Microbiol 58(2):139–145PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Lane DJ (1991) 16S/23S rRNA sequencing. In: Stackebrandt E, Goodfellow M (eds) Nucleic acid techniques in bacterial systematic. Wiley, Hoboken, pp 115–175Google Scholar
  10. Nakai T, Park SC (2002) Bacteriophage therapy of infectious diseases in aquaculture. Res Microbiol 153:13–18PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Thompson FL, Barash Y, Sawabe T, Sharon G, Swings J, Rosenberg E (2006) Thalassomonas loyana sp. nov., a causative agent of the white plague-like disease of corals on the Eilat coral reef. Int J Syst Evol Microbiol 56:365–368PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Weld RJ, Butts C, Heinemann JA (2004) Models of phage growth and their applicability to phage therapy. J Theor Biol 227:1–11PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Molecular Microbiology and BiotechnologyTel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael
  2. 2.Israel Nature and Parks AuthorityJerusalemIsrael
  3. 3.Department of ZoologyTel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael

Personalised recommendations