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The etiology analyzes the origin of health disorders, investigating the factors that produce them.

At present, it's understood that a disease needs three factors to develop: a host (the organism that becomes ill), an agent (that or that which causes discomfort or damage) and an environment (the environment). The three factors, according to the etiology, must be concurrent in space and time for the disease to manifest itself.

A virus, a bacterium, a fungus or a parasite, to name a few possibilities, can act as agents, affecting a human being (the host) that's in a certain area. Once the disease is present in the person, it's important to resort to the etiology to know its causes since that information helps to define the treatment.

The etiology also recognizes that the factors can be facilitators, predisposers, enhancers or triggers. Depending on sex, age, living conditions and nutrition, an individual may be more or less likely to get certain diseases.

Already in the time of Hippocrates de Cos, an important Greek doctor who lived in the Pericles century, doctors asked their patients three key questions to begin the elaboration of the clinical history:

* What's wrong with him?
* Since when?
* What do you think is the reason?

In other words, the doctor gives the patient the opportunity to express his opinion about the cause of his discomfort. In the nineteenth century, chemist Louis Pasteur and biologist Claude Bernard, both from France, represented two points of view that medicine had been studying for a long time: the cause of a disease is a single factor; The cause arises from several factors that act simultaneously.

In this way the basis of the etiology was forged, which, like all the creations of the human being, went through different stages. Bernard focused on environmental, internal and external factors; his theory argued that the disease arose from having lost internal balance, something that usually occurs due to a long list of factors.

For his part, Pasteur dedicated his efforts to discover what role bacteria played in the onset of a disease, and for this he related several diseases with certain microbes. His theories were widely accepted because he was able to demonstrate several of these relationships.

This discussion, which laid the foundations of etiology, leaned in favor of Pasteur, and thus doctors began to accept that diseases are caused by specific microbes. A German scientist named Heinrich Hermann Robert Koch was the one who formulated the concept of scientific etiology, proper.

Biology advanced a lot during the nineteenth century thanks to the development of technology focused on medicine, which resulted in the creation of diagnostic instruments such as stethoscope and blood pressure measuring devices, as well as promoting the sophistication of surgery. This growth helped with the definition of the etiology, since it gave doctors more tools to find the causes of the diseases, not forgetting that it also enhanced the effectiveness of the treatments.

It's important not to confuse etiology with ethology: this last term refers to the specialty of biology that's dedicated to studying how animals behave.

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