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Field Diagnosis

Based on an analysis, using the Coral Disease Diagnostic Decision Tree, of the characteristics determined in the field assessment, it is possible to identify a common field name that describes the disease in a particular coral and apply the same terminology to other corals (regardless of species) with similar gross visible signs. This approach, also known as Level I analysis, is used primarily for rapid assessment and routine monitoring and most often precedes a more detailed investigation applying either a Level II or III approach. The Coral Disease Identification Keys provides and easy tool to identify a coral disease from the field assessment characteristics.

The Level II analysis involves a detailed examination of affected and unaffected tissue taken from the diseased coral (and compared to representative presumed healthy corals) using histology. This approach can help identify the presence of microorganisms and describe morphological changes to the tissue. This may result in a morphologic diagnosis.

The Level III analysis involves applying a detailed set of field and laboratory tests to identify and confirm the presence of proposed causative agent(s), toxin or other factor responsible for the manifestation of the disease. Microbial diseases may be determined according to Koch’s postulate – where a presumed pathogen is isolated, grown in pure culture, identified, and used to infect a presumably healthy host. If disease signs appear following infection and the presence of the presumed pathogen is confirmed, an etiologic diagnosis may be assigned.