Glossary of Terms

Common terms that you may encounter on the site.


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  • Vaccination

    Introduction into an organism of a material designed to provoke an immune response that will provide protection from a related disease agent.

  • Vaccine

    Antigenic material in the form of weakened, killed, or modified pathogens, introduced to the body to induce immunity against a particular pathogen.

  • Variolation

    A smallpox immunization technique once practiced in many locations worldwide. Variolation involved the transfer of matter from a smallpox sore into a cut in the skin of an uninfected person. The variolated person would generally experience a local reaction or mild form of the disease and thereafter be immune to smallpox. Variolation, however, carried the risk of severe infection and death. Variolation was replaced with smallpox vaccination after Edward Jenner published his findings on the use of cowpox material to induce immunity to smallpox in 1798.

  • Virulence

    The ability of a pathogen to cause a disease. May also be used to describe the severity of the disease the pathogen causes.

  • Virus

    An infectious particle consisting of DNA or RNA surrounded by a protein coat. A virus is not a living thing and requires a living host cell in order to reproduce itself. Viruses are ultramicroscopic, meaning that they are too small to be seen by anything other than a powerful electron microscope.

  • Virus-like particle (VLP)

    Antigenic material from the outer protein coat of a virus. For example, the human papillomavirus vaccine uses HPV VLPs, assembled in yeast cells, to stimulate the immune system to protect against the virus.