Disease names

Plant diseases and pests

International standards and resources

The American Phytopathological Society publishes a list of plant disease names.

Australian conventions and resources

The Australian Plant Pest Database, managed by Plant Health Australia, includes names and information about plant diseases and pests that could infect Australian commercial plants.

Terms to watch out for:

pathogen, pathology

See all terms

Names of plant diseases are often based on the name of the pathogen involved:

Fusarium wilt     tomato ringspot virus infection

Other names are based on descriptions of the symptoms:

bacterial leaf spot     black rot

Use British spellings and lower case for common names of plant diseases and pests, even if the disease name is usually abbreviated to an acronym. Exceptions are proper nouns and some (but not all) letters denoting type or subtype.

Asiatic citrus psyllid     giant African snail     Dutch elm disease     Fusarium head blight     mango leaf gall midge     vegetable leafminer     papaya ringspot

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Animal diseases

International standards and resources

The website of the World Organisation for Animal Health (known as OIE, for ‘Office Internationale des Epizooties’) has relevant links, particularly Information on aquatic and terrestrial animal diseases.

(There are some style differences between this international listing and Australian usage, such as foot and mouth disease, which has no hyphens in the OIE listing but does have hyphens in Australia.)

standardized nomenclature of animal parasitic diseases is available online.

For common terms, consult a standard veterinary dictionary, such as Black’s veterinary dictionary

Australian conventions and resources

A list of livestock diseases of importance in Australia is given in Schedule 3 of the Government and Livestock Industry Cost Sharing Deed in Respect of Emergency Animal Disease Responses.

See Health and medicine for information on human diseases and medical conditions, and Postmortem examination for the recommended terminology for postmortem examinations in humans and other animals. 

Reminder. Just because the abbreviation of a term is made up of capitals, it does not mean that the term has initial capitals when it is spelled out.

Generally, the name of choice for any disease in any language should be the common term.  For international communication, the most commonly used English term is preferred. Publications should include any synonyms in the list of keywords or glossary.

Use lower case for common names of diseases, even if the disease name is usually abbreviated to an acronym:

avian influenza     bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)

Exceptions are proper nouns:

African swine fever     Newcastle disease     Rift Valley fever

Use an initial capital for diseases named after a person (eponymic terms). Unlike human disease names, the possessive s tends to be retained:

Aujeszky’s disease

Use hyphenation according to the usual rules for compound modifiers:

foot-and-mouth disease

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