Date of Award

Spring 2014

Degree Name

Honors Bachelor of Arts


Biological Science


Dr. Kathryn P. Sutherland


Since its known outbreak in 1996, White Pox Disease has continued to destroy the reef building coral species Acropora palmata throughout the Florida Keys and the Caribbean. White Pox Disease’s only known cause thus far is the fecal enterobacterium Serratia marcescens. Two strains of this bacterium (PDL100 and PDR60) found in infected A. palmata have been traced back to human sewage, creating the only known marine reverse zoonotic disease. In this study, bacterial isolates from canals, wastewater, infected A. palmata, and potential non-host corals from Florida Key reefs were analyzed to determine which strains, if any, of S. marcescens were present in this area during July, 2013. Isolates with potential S. marcescens tested using MacConkey Sorbitol Agar (MCSA) and DNase with Toludine Blue agar amended with the antibiotic cephalothin (DTC) were confirmed to have S. marcescens using polymerase chain reaction. These S. marcescens positive isolates were fingerprinted using pulse filed gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Unlike study results from the past decade, neither the PDL100 nor the PDR60 strain was isolated during this study. Five different, unknown Serratia strains were found from a combination of canal, wastewater, and non-host coral species, with one strain coming from multiple locations. Although bacterial isolates were taken directly from A. palmata lesions, none of these samples were positive for S. marcescens, leading to the conclusion that there are other unknown causes of White Pox Disease that have yet to be discovered.

Rights Holder

Kimberly Gossard