The state of latency in microbial pathogenesis

Liise Anne Pirofski, Arturo Casadevall

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The state of latency occurs when a microbe's persistence in a host produces host damage without perturbing homeostasis sufficiently to cause clinical symptoms or disease. The mechanisms contributing to latency are diverse and depend on the nature of both the microbe and the host. Latency has advantages for both host and microbe. The host avoids progressive damage caused by interaction with the microbe that may translate into disease, and the microbe secures a stable niche in which to survive. Latency is clinically important because some latent microbes can be transmitted to other hosts, and it is associated with a risk for recrudescent microbial growth and development of disease. In addition, it can predispose the host to other diseases, such as malignancies. Hence, latency is a temporally unstable state with an eventual outcome that mainly depends on host immunity. Latency is an integral part of the pathogenic strategies of microbes that require human (and/ or mammalian) hosts, including herpesviruses, retroviruses, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and Toxoplasma gondii. However, latency is also an outcome of infection with environmental organisms such as Cryptococcus neoformans, which require no host in their replicative cycles. For most microbes that achieve latency, there is a need for a better understanding and more investigation of host and microbial mechanisms that result in this state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4525-4531
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Investigation
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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