What is Disease Pathogenesis?

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  • Written By: C. Martin
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 13 August 2019
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In medicine, disease pathogenesis is a term used to refer to the origin and development of a disease. The study of disease pathogenesis, which is more often referred to simply as pathogenesis, forms a sub-branch of the wider fields of pathobiology and pathology. While pathobiology and pathology refer to the general biology, development, and progress of a disease, pathogenesis usually focuses on the factors that lead to the initial origin of the disease.

In the case of many diseases, multiple factors affect the disease pathogenesis. For example, an individual may have a genetic predisposition to a disease, but the disease may not actually occur unless certain environmental factors are also present. Similarly, some kinds of infectious disease are often fought off by an infected individual without any symptoms ever appearing. Such infections might cause disease, for example, only if the bacteria or virus that causes it are present, and at the same time the immunity of the infected person is weakened by malnutrition or a disorder of the immune system.

There are many different types of disease pathogenesis. These include invasion of the body by viruses or bacteria, inflammation as a response to chemicals, physical trauma, the presence of cancerous cells, and many different kinds of genetic disorders. As there are so many possible origins of disease, doctors and researchers who study disease pathogenesis often specialize in one particular field of pathogenesis.


Some specialist fields of pathogenesis include hematopathology, clinical microbiology, genetics, and immunopathology. Hematopathology relates to abnormalities of the blood, the bone marrow, and the lymphatic system, and how such abnormalities may lead to disease. In clinical microbiology, the study of pathogenesis includes examining how bacteria and viruses spread and multiply. Genetics has a very important bearing on pathogenesis, as a great number of diseases originate partly, or wholly, as a result of a particular gene, a mutation, or an abnormality in the genetic material of the patient. Immunopathology is of particular importance in the disease pathogenesis of infectious diseases, as it relates to the immune system, including how immunity weaknesses may allow a virus or bacterium to take hold and cause a disease.

While some doctors specialize in one of the above fields of pathogenesis, other doctors and researchers may work in multiple fields. This is often the case with individuals who are studying pathogenesis as it relates to a specific disease. In the case of some cancers, understanding the full disease pathogenesis may include genetic, infectious, chemical, and immunological factors.


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Post 4

I think that if I was a specialist in the pathogenesis field, I would like to work in the immunopathology field. It would be interesting to research what makes a strong immune system, and how to keep it strong.

I'm quite sure that lifestyle has a lot to do with the quality of the immune system. Just think if there was a magical pill we could take to boost our immune system, so we wouldn't get infectious diseases or cancer! Dream on!

Post 3

About a year ago, I read a book on theories about the possible cause or causes of autism. There's a heated debate about the part that environment plays and how much is genetic. Or, is it a case of genetic factors influencing environmental factors during a particular window of time?

A pathogenesis specialist has the incredible job trying to find the origin of diseases. He has to consider genetics, environment, and the immune system's part in the cause of illness. I personally think that the immune system's ability to fight off disease is a big factor. So much can affect the strength of the immune system - age, stress, aging, nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle. And of course, it helps to have a genetically strong immune system.

Post 2

@indemnifyme - One of my friends is in medical school right now and she eventually wants to work in a lab concentrating on disease pathogenesis. She would probably be really happy to hear you say that it is the most important branch of pathology!

My friend and I were actually talking the other day about how important genetics is in pathogenesis. Even though environment does play a big factor in health and disease, if you have a genetic disease that's it! You're just going to have it. This is very frustrating for doctors.

Post 1

Wow! It sounds like this might be the most important branch of pathology. I feel like it's most necessary to find out what causes a disease in order to prevent it and treat it.

For example, the common cold is caused by a virus while strep throat is caused by a bacteria. Viruses and bacteria are treated two different ways and the treatments for the one don't work on the other. So if you weren't aware of the pathogenesis of those two illnesses, the chances of treating them properly would be pretty slim.

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