infection vs. infestation

David Geiser dgeiser at
Thu Nov 6 20:36:00 EST 1997

In article <01bcea8d$fd8b89c0$0a94dcc3 at> Gisella
Orjeda, g.orjeda at writes:

>He says that the word infected only applies to alive things while infested
>applies to innanimate things.

I'm not so sure that "infested" refers only to inanimate things.  
Dogs are "infested with fleas",  and both dogs and fleas
are alive.

However,  I have to agree that it is not good usage to say that
soil is infected,  although my American Heritage dictionary does
not specify that an infectee must be living:  "infect:  to contam-
inate with pathogenic microorganisms"

I think this is a matter of style more than a matter of right or
wrong.  When your Fusarium is living in the soil,  it isn't causing
disease,  is it?  It's probably living as a saprobe.  If it isn't 
causing disease,  I don't think it's appropriate to say that it is 
engaged in infection.  Perhaps even "infestation" is inappropriate:
that sounds as though the soil somehow doesn't like having Fusarium

Hope this helps,

Dave Geiser
(who just loves getting involved in these sorts of arguments)

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