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Pathogenicity is the potential capacity of certain species of microbes or viruses to cause a disease. Pathogenicity is characterized by complex pathogenic properties which evolve during their struggle for existence.

Pathogens are characterized by specific actions. Each species is able to give rise to different infectious processes. It is often used interchangeably with the term "virulence", although virulence is used more specifically to describe the relative degree of damage done by a pathogen, or the degree of pathogenicity caused by an organism.

A pathogen is described partly through its virulence by its ability to produce toxins, enter tissue, colonize, hijack nutrients, and its ability to immunosuppress the host.