Cultivation-based studies have demonstrated that yellow-band disease (YBD), a lesion-producing ailment affecting diverse species of coral, is caused by a consortium of Vibrio spp. This study takes the first cultivation-independent approach to examine the whole bacterial community associated with YBD-like lesioned corals. Two species of Fungiidae corals, Ctenactis crassa and Herpolitha limax, displaying YBD-like lesions were examined across diverse reefs throughout the Red Sea. Using a pyrosequencing approach targeting the V1-V3 regions of the SSU rRNA gene, no major differences in bacterial community composition or diversity were identified between healthy and lesioned corals of either species. Indicator species analysis did not find Vibrio significantly associated with the lesioned corals. However, operational taxonomic units belonging to the Ruegeria genus of Alphaproteobacteria and NS9 marine group of Flavobacteria were significantly associated with the lesioned corals. The most striking trend of this dataset was that reef location was found to be the most significant influence on the coral-bacterial community. It is possible that more pronounced lesion-specific bacterial signatures might have been concealed by the strong influence of environmental conditions on coral-bacteria. Overall, this study demonstrates inconsistencies between cultivation-independent and cultivation-based studies regarding the role of specific bacteria in coral diseases. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd and Society for Applied Microbiology.