UNITED NEWS INTERNATIONAL (UNI) — New research reveals the extent of plastic pollution in coral reefs.

A study, published on Jan. 26 in the journal Science, found coral reefs in the Asia-Pacific region were being smothered by more than 11 billion items of plastic.

Furthermore, researchers discovered the plastic was actually infecting the coral. Almost 90 percent of reefs littered with plastic were riddled with disease.

That’s compared to less than 5 percent for plastic free reefs.

Lead researcher Joleah Lamb told The Guardian,“Corals are animals just like me and you – they become wounded and then infected.”

Lamb went on to say, “Plastics are ideal vessels for microorganisms, with pits and pores, so it’s like cutting yourself with a really dirty knife.”

Researchers project the problem with plastic pollution will only get worse. They said by 2025, the number of plastic items found on reefs could increase to 15.7 billion.