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Can herpes be killing our coral reefs?

Scientists are noticing a direct link between the decline of coral reefs and the herpes virus, which may be in part the cause of the recent coral reef crisis.

As reefs continue to disappear, researchers publishing in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, state that not much has been done to say whether viruses are at the root of problem.

As a result of the crisis, a large scale study has begun, with one scientist, an assistant professor at Oregan State University where the study is taking place, saying that, “most researchers have looked only at bacteria. But we suspect viruses may play a role in this as well, and it’s important to learn more about what is causing this problem. Corals are important building blocks of the tropical seas”.

The results have found a type of herpes virus, different from that found in humans, appears in the corals after they were stressed. Research has also suggested that herpes is from a very old family of viruses and may have evolved together with corals.

Global warming and pollution have also been widely blamed for the reduction in coral numbers.

With corals potentially passing on a form of mucus that contains human’s viruses, we have to wonder whether our interference and increasing population is causing the loss of this coral, the essential ecosystems that harbour marine life.

Scientists have concluded that if they can find out more about the types of herpes found in coral reefs we may be able to prevent further damage and make significant advances in helping humans.

Posted by Sam Bainbridge

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