Biology as Poetry: Microbiology

Bacteriophage Ecology Group


Symbiotic relationship that under certain circumstances can be helpful and other circumstances can be harmful, with the helpful and harmful aspects referring to either host or symbiont.

Particularly, in terms of symbiotic relationships, this would be varying between mutualistic and parasitic. Endogenous infections thus would be a manifestation of this concept, with the organisms involved described as opportunistic pathogens. These organisms, in other words (below) vacillate between what can be described as "probiotic" aspects (probiosis) and "antibiotic" aspects (antibiosis) and thus can be considered to display, in general, amphibotic tendencies (amphibiosis).

The term seems to be used in a small subset of, for example, the dentistry and Helicobacter pylori literature as found in books; see Google Books .

This is how Takahashi and Nyvad (2011), p. 295, describe the term: "From the perspective of microbial ecology, dental diseases may be considered a model system of amphibiosis (Ruby and Goldner, 2007), a term invented by the microbial ecologist Theodore Rosebury about 50 years ago (Rosebury, 1962). Amphibiosis is the dynamic adaptation that occurs in response to changing environmental conditions between two dissimilar organisms living together. Under 'normal' conditions, micro-organisms in the oral cavity live in a symbiotic relationship with the host, characterized by mutualism (beneficial to both). However, the nature of a particular symbiosis may shift under changing conditions in a reciprocal manner, with mutualism becoming parasitism (beneficial to one and detrimental to the other) and vice versa (Stanier et al., 1970). This dynamic adaptation is the basic principle of endogenous disease processes…"

From Ruby and Goldner (2007), p. 9: An amphibiont or a symbiont undergoing dynamic change holds a spectral position between probiosis (mutualistic symbiosis) and antibiosis or pathogenicity (parasitic symbiosis). Endogenous oral disease is caused by heterogenous microbial populations within biofilms; thus, amphibiosis can be viewed as a process of change within microbial consortia as a whole. Therefore, amphibiotic shifts within microbial populations in dental plaque biofilms are the essential determinants in the causation of endogenous infectious disease by a parasitic microflora, or the maintenance of oral health by a mutualistic microflora.

For more on this topic, see Wikipedia  and Google.  Contact web master.  Return to home.