“Pathobiome” – New Angle on Illness


Cefas and University of Exeter scientists have presented a novel idea describing the complex microbial interactions that lead to disease in plants, animals and humans.
Microbial organisms and viruses cause many diseases of plants and animals.They can also help protect from illness, for example the complex communities of microbes within the human gut, that are essential for our well being.However, very little is understood about these microbes and the way they trigger and prevent disease.

The pathobiome concept opens a door on this unexplored world of microbial diversity and the way it controls all other organisms on the planet.It will change the way we approach health and disease control in animals, plants and people.Conventional approaches  explains infectious disease in plants, animals and in humans are based on the concept that single pathogens are responsible for the signs or symptoms of disease observed in these hosts. The pathobiome concept explains that in reality, illness occurrence is far more complicated.

Today sees the publication of a paper exploring the pathobiome concept, a novel means of seeking to understand diseases of plants and animals, including humans.The concept acknowledges that all organisms are actually complex communities of viruses, microbes and other small organisms (e.g. parasites) which can interact to affect health or disease status at any given time.

These advanced communities frequently interact with their hosts, generally conferring advantages (e.g. “good” micro organism within the human intestine microbiome), and at different times causing harm by contributing to disease.When these communities combine to cause disease they are termed “pathobiomes” – a recognition of their collective shift away from the healthy-state “symbiome”.

The recognition that the pathobiome performs a key role in these signs and symptoms of disease that we observe within the host is becoming a more accurate way of considering disease than by merely referring to it as the outcome of the effects of a single pathogen (e.g. the influenza virus).

Even when a single agent is implicated, its effects are likely to be modified (enhanced or mitigated) by others within the accompanying pathobiome and so should not be considered in isolation in the disease process.

The influence of the encircling surroundings on animal and plant health is hugely important too.For instance, aquatic organisms dwell in a microbial soup; there are tens of millions of microbes and viruses in each drop of fresh and seawater.A few of these are already recognized to trigger diseases in numerous organisms.In different circumstances, microbes not previously thought to be pathogenic can, actually, change into so under certain environmental conditions. On account of this we’re revising our understanding of what a pathogen actually is as we begin to recognise that this may be decided by the context in which a microbe finds itself.

Professor David Bass, lead author at Cefas, mentioned: “The vast majority of cells in our our bodies are bacterial, not human.”



Therefore, we’re walking ecosystems – interacting communities of many different organisms.That is also true for all different animals and plants.The organisms in these advanced communities play key roles in figuring out the well being of their host animals and plants.The pathobiome concept will result in understanding these relationships better and assist us manage disease in crop vegetation and animals, wildlife, pets and ourselves.

Professor Charles Tyler, of the University of Exeter mentioned: “As we seek to better understand how pathogens trigger diseases, we increasingly recognise that the surroundings, of each the host and pathogen, plays a vital role.”

The concept of the pathobiome seeks to understand how interactions between organisms in, and immediately surrounding, a host, together with the associated physicochemistries of these environments allow or inhibit an organisms’ ability to trigger disease.As such this presents a more holistic and realistic approach to understanding the disease course of.



It is great to see this conceptual paper popping out of the Centre for Sustainable Aquaculture Futures – a partnership between the University of Exeter and Cefas, where disease diagnosis, avoidance and mitigation of disease in aquaculture is a major focus.

Professor Grant Stentiford, co-author and Science Theme Lead for Animal and Human Health at Cefas mentioned: “Conceptualising the pathobiome as a community of microbes which have the capacity to change in the host over space (e.g. between tissues and organs) and time, and are associated with observable changes within the health of the host, will revolutionise our understanding of how to describe and manage disease in animals and plants.

In the case of farmed animals and plants, optimising these situations which discourage formation of a pathobiome might become as important as existing controls, which aim to minimise exposure to single, specific pathogens.






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