The development of new methods, including genomics, which can even be applied to unculturable microorganisms, has significantly increased our knowledge about bacterial pathogenesis and symbiosis and, in consequence, is profoundly modifying our views on the evolution and the genetic and physiological basis of bacteria-host interactions. The presentations at this symposium revealed conceptual links between bacterial pathogenesis and symbiosis. The close co-operation of experts in both fields will result in significant synergy and new insights into basic mechanisms of bacteria-host interactions and their evolution. The meeting provided fascinating news about the genetic and metabolic consequences that the change in their lifestyle had for bacteria that developed from free-living to permanent host-associated organisms exemplified by intracellular pathogens or symbionts. In addition, surprising similarities but also striking differences between the strategies involved in the establishment of a symbiotic versus a parasitic lifestyle can be noted. In the long run, the characterization of such differences might lead to lifestyle prediction or to an evaluation of the pathogenic potential of newly isolated bacteria via the definition of genetic and/or metabolic signatures characteristic for pathogenic or symbiotic organisms. Moreover, it is expected that these investigations will lead to new strategies for the treatment or prevention of bacterial infections, or the avoidance of pathogen transmission.