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On the relationship between Pathogenic Potential and Infective Inoculum.

  • Smith, Daniel F Q1
  • Casadevall, Arturo1
  • 1 W. Harry Feinstone Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America. , (United States)
Published Article
PLoS Pathogens
Public Library of Science
Publication Date
Jun 01, 2022
DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1010484
PMID: 35696437


Pathogenic Potential (PP) is a mathematical description of an individual microbe, virus, or parasite's ability to cause disease in a host, given the variables of inoculum, signs of disease, mortality, and in some instances, median survival time of the host. We investigated the relationship between pathogenic potential (PP) and infective inoculum (I) using two pathogenic fungi in the wax moth Galleria mellonella with mortality as the relevant outcome. Our analysis for C. neoformans infection revealed negative exponential relationship between PP and I. Plotting the log(I) versus the Fraction of animals with signs or symptoms (Fs) over median host survival time (T) revealed a linear relationship, with a slope that varied between the different fungi studied and a y-intercept corresponding to the inoculum that produced no signs of disease. The I vs Fs/T slope provided a measure of the pathogenicity of each microbial species, which we call the pathogenicity constant or kPath. The kPath provides a new parameter to quantitatively compare the relative virulence and pathogenicity of microbial species for a given host. In addition, we investigated the PP and Fs/T from values found in preexisting literature. Overall, the relationship between Fs/T and PP versus inoculum varied among microbial species and extrapolation to zero signs of disease allowed the calculation of the lowest pathogenic inoculum (LPI) of a microbe. Microbes tended to fall into two groups: those with positive linear relationships between PP and Fs/T vs I, and those that had a negative exponential PP vs I relationship with a positive logarithmic Fs/T vs I relationship. The microbes with linear relationships tended to be bacteria, whereas the exponential-based relationships tended to be fungi or higher order eukaryotes. Differences in the type and sign of the PP vs I and Fs/T vs I relationships for pathogenic microbes suggest fundamental differences in host-microbe interactions leading to disease.

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