How holobionts get sick-toward a unifying scheme of disease

Silvio D. Pitlik, Omry Koren

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

42 Scopus citations


All humans, animals, and plants are holobionts. Holobionts comprise the host and a myriad of interacting microorganisms-the microbiota. The hologenome encompasses the genome of the host plus the composite of all microbial genomes (the microbiome). In health, there is a fine-tuned and resilient equilibrium within the members of the microbiota and between them and the host. This relative stability is maintained by a high level of microbial diversity, a delicate bio-geographic distribution of microorganisms, and a sophisticated and intricate molecular crosstalk among the multiple components of the holobiont. Pathobionts are temporarily benign microbes with the potential, under modified ecosystem conditions, to become key players in disease. Pathobionts may be endogenous, living for prolonged periods of time inside or on the host, or exogenous, invading the host during opportunistic situations. In both cases, the end result is the transformation of the beneficial microbiome into a health-perturbing pathobiome. We hypothesize that probably all diseases of holobionts, acute or chronic, infectious or non-infectious, and regional or systemic, are characterized by a perturbation of the healthy microbiome into a diseased pathobiome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64
Number of pages1
Issue number1
StatePublished - 24 Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
OK is supported by research grants from the Israeli Science Foundation, Minerva ARCHES, the Marie Curie Career integration grant and from the Canadian-Israel Health Initiative, jointly funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Israel Science Foundation, the International Development Research Centre, Canada and the Azrieli Foundation.


  • Disease
  • Microbiome
  • Microbiota
  • Pathobiome
  • Pathobiont


Dive into the research topics of 'How holobionts get sick-toward a unifying scheme of disease'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this