The pathogenic potential of a microbe

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


Virulence is a microbial property that is realized only in susceptible hosts. There is no absolute measurement for virulence, and consequently it is always measured relative to a standard, usually another microbe or host. This article introduces the concept of pathogenic potential, which provides a new approach to measuring the capacity of microbes for virulence. The pathogenic potential is proportional to the fraction of individuals who become symptomatic after infection with a defined inoculum and can include such attributes as mortality, communicability, and the time from infection to disease. The calculation of the pathogenic potential has significant advantages over the use of the lethal dose that kills 50% of infected individuals (LD50) and allows direct comparisons between individual microbes. An analysis of the pathogenic potential of several microbes for mice reveals a continuum, which in turn supports the view that there is no dividing line between pathogenic and nonpathogenic microbes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00015-17
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Formula
  • Pathogenesis
  • Virulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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