The extent to which disturbances in the resident microbiota can compromise an animal's health is poorly understood. Hydra is one of the evolutionary oldest animals with naturally occurring tumors. Here, we found a causal relationship between an environmental spirochete (Turneriella spec.) and tumorigenesis in Hydra. Unexpectedly, virulence of this pathogen requires the presence of Pseudomonas spec., a member of Hydra´s beneficial microbiome indicating that dynamic interactions between a resident bacterium and a pathogen cause tumor formation. The observation points to the crucial role of commensal bacteria in maintaining tissue homeostasis and adds support to the view that microbial community interactions are essential for disease. These findings in an organism that shares deep evolutionary connections with all animals have implications for our understanding of cancer.
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