Host-pathogen interactions: The attributes of virulence

Arturo Casadevall, Liise anne Pirofski

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

292 Scopus citations


Virulence is one of a number of possible outcomes of host-microbe interaction. As such, microbial virulence is dependent on host factors, as exemplified by the pathogenicity of avirulent microbes in immunocompromised hosts and the lack of pathogenicity of virulent pathogens in immune hosts. Pathogen-centered views of virulence assert that pathogens are distinguished from nonpathogens by their expression of virulence factors. Although this concept appears to apply to certain microbes that cause disease in normal hosts, it does not apply to most microbes that cause disease primarily in immunocompromised hosts. The study of virulence is fraught with the paradox that virulence, despite being a microbial characteristic, can only be expressed in asusceptible host. Thus, the question "What is a pathogen?" begs the question, "What is the outcome of thehost-microbe interaction?" We propose that host damage provides a common denominator that translates into the different outcomes of host-microbe interaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-344
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Infectious Diseases
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Infectious Diseases


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