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Scientists Track Extremely Rare Coral Killer (Video)

Possibly for the first time, scientists are studying a disease humans could be passing on to an animal. This phenomenon is known as "reverse zoonosis" and it may be affecting Elkhorn coral off the Florida Keys. 

This coral, once one of the most common in the Caribbean, is now a threatened species due to population losses from White Pox disease. This infectious disease causes irregular white patches or blotches showing loss of coral tissue. With support from NSF, Rollins College biologist Kathryn Sutherland is tracing this emerging infectious disease. She and her team believe undertreated sewage, likely from leaking septic tanks or illegal cruise ship discharge, could be the source because the bacteria that causes the disease can live in animal or human intestines.

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Nina Sen is a frequent contributor to Live Science’s Life’s Little Mysteries series: an exploration and explanation of our world’s phenomena, both natural and man-made. She also writes astronomy photo stories for Live Science's sister site