The past few decades have seen a world-wide increase in coral diseases, yet little is known about coral pathogens. In this study, techniques commonly used in pathogenomic research were applied to the coral pathogen Vibrio shiloi in order to identify genetic elements involved in its virulence. Suppressive subtractive hybridization was used to compare the gene content of V. shiloi to that of a closely related but non-pathogenic bacterium, Vibrio mediterranei, resulting in identification of several putative virulence factors and of three novel genomic islands. The entire genome of V. shiloi was further screened for genes related to previously characterized steps in infection: adhesion, superoxide dismutase production and toxin production. Exposure of pure cultures of V. shiloi to crushed coral tissues strongly affected the expression of seven genes encoding pili, zona occludins toxin (Zot) and a superoxide dismutase. Analysis of eight V. shiloi strains isolated in the last decade shows a shift of the natural population from strains carrying all three genomic islands to strains carrying none of them. This shift occurred following appearance of resistance in the coral Oculina patagonica to infection by V. shiloi. The relevance of these findings to the bleaching disease caused by V. shiloi is discussed.