Pathogenicity vs. Virulence
Pathogenicity refers to the ability of an organism to cause disease (ie, harm the host). This ability represents a genetic component of the pathogen and the overt damage done to the host is a property of the host-pathogen interactions. Commensals and opportunistic pathogens lack this inherent ability to cause disease. However, disease is not an inevitable outcome of the host-pathogen interaction and, furthermore, pathogens can express a wide range of virulence. Virulence, a term often used interchangeably with pathogenicity, refers to the degree of pathology caused by the organism. The extent of the virulence is usually correlated with the ability of the pathogen to multiply within the host and may be affected by other factors (ie, conditional). In summary, an organism (species or strain) is defined as being pathogenic (or not), and depending upon conditions, may exhibit different levels of virulence.