I believe that some types of fungal/viral/other infections have a life cycle in which they kill a host entity (possibly plant or animal), and then around that time they also "bloom" or "erupt" from that entity, spreading widely (so as to infect others). I'm looking for a phrase to describe this and use it as a metaphor or simile; preferably describing a case that would be visible (and unpleasant) to the naked eye. For example:

Before the company went bankrupt, it filed many lawsuits, sabotaged the oversight commission, and started daily spam-advertising to all its customers. It was like _________.

Edit: Thanks to @cobaltduck in the comments for linking to the specific biological process of which I was thinking but couldn't name: Ophiocordyceps unilateralis (or "zombie fungus").


6 Answers 6


Metastasize can explain the spreading, although no one word completes your example sentence.

to spread injuriously to transform, especially into a dangerous form

There isn't a single word solution for your sentence, but something like

It was like a cancer metastasizing.

comes close.

  • I considered that initially, but my understanding is that literally refers to within-the-body only ("to spread to other parts of the [same] body", per link). I'm looking for a spreading process which is literally external and visible. Jan 25, 2016 at 18:12
  • 1
    @DanielR.Collins That's only the cancer definition. From the link, you can also see "The KGB metastasized after the fall of the Soviet Union.", meaning that it spread outside to USSR, and "Truth metastasized into lurid fantasy."
    – jimm101
    Jan 25, 2016 at 18:25
  • @jimm101: I disagree that sentence implies the KGB spread outside the USSR (which in fact it did not). Again, I'm looking for a pathology description of externality to a body. Jan 25, 2016 at 19:13



The formation or appearance of pustules. The American Heritage® Medical Dictionary


A condition marked by the formation of numerous carbuncles. Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health



a : rapid communication of an influence (as a doctrine or emotional state)
b : an influence that spreads rapidly

"It was like a contagion."
"the contagion of disgrace"

Simply put, it means the spreading of a harmful idea or theory.


It was proliferating or mushrooming like a virus.


I'll take a stab at answering my own question thanks to the link that @cobaltduck provided, something like:

  • Zombie fungus
  • Rupturing spores
  • Fruiting body

I'm not totally thrilled with any of these, though; maybe there's something better.


In epidemiology, infections that spread at the expense of their host, harming or even killing it in the process, are said to be virulent.

The most virulent stage of an infection usually corresponds to the period of highest transmissibility, for obvious reasons — it does the pathogen no good to risk killing off its host, unless doing so helps it spread to new hosts. Conversely, if the host is about to die anyway, it becomes essential for the infection to spread itself to new hosts, or it will also die when the host does.

Alas, the word "virulent" won't fit your example sentence as written, since it calls for a noun phrase rather than an adjective. That said, something like "a virulent parasite bursting out of its dying host" should certainly be evocative enough.

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