This article is within the scope of WikiProject Viruses, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of viruses on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
This article is within the scope of WikiProject Microbiology, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Microbiology on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
"However, most viruses co-exist harmlessly in their host and cause no signs or symptoms of disease." If this is true, then how can viruses be defined in general as "pathogens"? If you google search "nonpathogenic viruses," you'll find several examples of viruses described in scientific sources as non-pathogenic. So they are non-pathogenic pathogens? I think the current definition we give for viruses as "pathogens" is unsatisfactory. Urszag (talk) 16:51, 17 August 2015 (UTC)
Agreed, although the scope for improving it is bounded by the limits of natural language. The root of the problem is an ontologic weakness of natural language, whereby humans have a tendency to continue to name a superset according to the traits of the principal subset even after it becomes apparent that there's a conflation. The cognates of "infection" have been referring to pathogenic presence/introduction of an agent, not just presence/introduction of an agent per se, all the way through Old and Middle French infection since Latin infectus. However, in the past century or so, we have not revised the way we use the word to reflect the newer understanding that so many examples of presence/introduction are benign, commensal, symbiotic, and otherwise. We have the word inoculation, but that so often connotes human intentional agency (reflecting its original senses) that it often doesn't substitute well. This example is a wrinkle that will not be trivial to iron out. There has long been a natural effort to try to use the word "infection" in a sense stripped of pathogenic meaning, which allows one to talk about "asymptomatic infection", "silent carriers of infection", "latent infection", "undetected infection", "harmless infection", and so on. But collectively we haven't yet convened on using the word consistently. It still often carries its original sense binding pathology along with it. Thus, as of this writing, the infectious agent page redirects to pathogen; the infection page's lede is all about presence of an agent coupled with pathosis, not just presence per se; which reflects the fact that (1) humans perennially conflate asymptomatic infection with "not infection" and, on the complementary side of the same coin, the fact that (2) the principal sense of the word "infection" is, implicitly, "symptomatic infection". Straightening out this annoyance completely, that is, at its roots, would require controlled natural language, which is beyond Wikipedia's scope. That said, doing a better job of handling it—acknowledging the conflation and pointing readers in correct directions at each mention—is possible to do if people will allow it to be done. One would not be finished doing it until one came to grips with, and stated in a Wikipedia lede, the notion that the essential thing being talked about is simply presence of an agent, and that pathogenic instances are the ones that people usually care about, and that therefore the word "infection" usually refers to them. One last set of thoughts. It's my understanding that the human genome itself, as we currently understand it, is a rambling record of bacteria and viruses that became part of us. And the mitochondria of our cells are some of the descendants of those bacteria. And without our gut flora and skin flora we'd be dead. Those facts alone are testament to the fact that we need to agree on better revised vocabulary to talk about the presence or introduction of one organism within another. Quercus solaris (talk) 22:30, 17 August 2015 (UTC)