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Dive suits could spread disease

9:20am, June 7, 2006

From Orlando, Fla., at the American Society for Microbiology meeting

Divers' wetsuits can harbor bacteria that cause diseases in coral and people, a new study suggests. The finding could lead to new guidelines for cleaning gear after dives.

Coral reefs are rapidly declining worldwide, and infectious diseases of the microscopic animals living within them seem to be a major cause. Researchers have suggested a variety of reasons for the rise in infections, including increased pollution.

However, notes microbiologist Cheryl Woodley of the Charleston, S.C., office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, few researchers suspected that divers might be harboring dangerous microbes in their suits.

To test this scenario, Woodley and her colleagues cut up a used wetsuit and sterilized the pieces. They then incubated each clean swatch in seawater mixed with a known quantity of one of three microbes: Vibrio carchariae, Serratia marce

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