What is virulence?

Virulence comes from the Latin virulentia and allows to name the quality of virulent (malignant or poisonous). The harmful and pathogenic nature of a microorganism, be it a virus, a bacterium or a fungus, determines its virulence.

In other words, virulence is linked to the degree of pathogenicity of a microorganism, that is, to its ability to cause harm. The resistance of microorganisms to antibiotics implies their greater or lesser virulence. When virulence can be inhibited, we speak of attenuated organisms. Vaccination (which produces antibodies) is related to the abrogation of virulence.

In another sense, virulence can refer to the style of a speech or text. When someone expresses himself with ardor or sharpness, it is said that he spoke with virulence. For example: “A president should not speak with such virulence about his opponents” , “The virulence of the speech surprised those present, who did not expect such expressions” , “On this occasion, the coach’s words left aside the virulence and sought agreement ” The virulence of speech is often associated with violence, although this is not entirely correct. Those who express themselves with virulence seem to have no limits in their words, which often produces a confrontation with the recipient of the message. That is why virulence is considered a speech defect, since the same thing could be expressed but with another tone or style that does not generate rejection in the impartial audience. In short, appealing to virulence is not convenient when trying to convince someone or argue. Virulence factors To describe the ability of different bacteria to cause disease, the route by which they enter the body, the results of the mechanisms used by the host as a defense and the essential characteristics of each bacterium, which are called virulence factors, are indicated. (they are usually proteins or other molecules genetically encoded in DNA and synthesized by enzymes). Assessing the virulence of a pathogen whose effects are not fatal is very complex. As with antibiotic resistance, pathogens have a particular resistance. The organism whose virulence has been inhibited is called attenuated and is the starting point for vaccination; on the contrary, it can be accentuated. The host can produce an aggressive response to infections, through its defense mechanisms, and this is the cause of wounds that are usually associated with an infectious process.

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Virulence is not synonymous with violence First of all, it is necessary to briefly define the term violence: it is related to a large volume of force or intensity. On the other hand, virulence can refer to malignant and intense disorders, or to a style, writing or speech that stands out for its harshness or for being harmful, poisonous or vicious to a great extent. Despite presenting clear differences, it is very common to find terms from the virulence family with the meaning that their equivalent has in the violence family . Let’s see some examples of this common mistake: “Given the virulence of the flames, it will be practically impossible to control the fires in the next 24 hours” , “More than three hundred people were forced to leave their homes due to a great fire”. According to many of the most important dictionaries of the Spanish language, the virulent term should not be used when looking for a synonym for violent; however, it is suggested to use some of the words with truly related meanings, such as sound devastating, devastating and voracious, among others. Likewise, it is not advisable to use the words virulence and violence, strength or intensity interchangeably.

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