I'm looking for a term to describe a disease that is spread ONLY from person to person, not from animal to person (zoonosis):

Zoonosis: any disease of animals communicable to humans (Dictionary.com)

My first thought was infectious disease, but this has too broad a definition; it encompasses both zoonotic diseases and (for lack of a better term) non-zoonotic diseases:

Infectious disease: a disease resulting from the presence and activity of a pathogenic microbial agent. (Dictionary.com)

Communicable disease likewise refers to any disease spread to humans, whether it is spread by another human or by an animal:

Communicable disease: a disease that is transmitted through direct contact with an infected individual or indirectly through a vector. Also called contagious disease. (Dictionary.com)

Is there any term (preferably a scientific/medical term, but a layman's term would suffice) for a disease which is spread ONLY from person to person, and not from animal to person? I would like to use a term that describes what such a disease is, rather than skirting the issue by describing what it is not (e.g., non-zoonotic disease or non-vector-borne disease).

  • Kace36 has the right term, but I've read more than my share of textbooks and papers on communicable diseases and never seen that word used (to within rounding error). (Zoonotic appears, but not anthroponotic.) They would just describe it as a disease that is communicated person-to-person (or spread by "person-to-person contact"). It sounds less fancy, I guess, but it's substantially more clear. Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 8:59

2 Answers 2


These diseases are known as anthroponoses (adjective form: anthroponotic)

Anthroponoses (Greek “anthrópos” = man, “nosos” = disease) are diseases transmissible from human to human. Examples include rubella, smallpox, diphtheria, gonorrhea, ringworm (Trichophyton rubrum), and trichomoniasis.

NVZ also provided this link to anthroponoses in my comments section.

Issues from Comments Section below (addressed)

  1. Janus mentioned this might not be exactly correct in the comments. I want to explain why this is definitely the correct word even if we are being meticulous about what the OP meant exactly. And there is no offense to Janus. None at all. I just want to clear it up.

Zoonoses [that were transmissible to humans] were originally called anthropozoonoses, and the reverse were called, zooanthroponoses [diseases from humans to animals]. There was a consensus that this caused confusion because scientists were mixing the 2 varieties and so they came up with the usage of the word: anthroponoses - link to Google Books

In addition, this CDC Appendix of disease types clearly lists the category: Anthroponoses (of which each one is a human to human only vector). In fact they specifically mention on that page, for those diseases which could cause confusion, that it is of the human genotype only variety. An example: Giardiasis; because it can affect both humans and animals but there is a human genotype that is only transmitted from human to human and this would known as an anthronponotic disease of Giardiasis.


CDC: Hubálek Z. Emerging Human Infectious Diseases: Anthroponoses, Zoonoses, and Sapronoses. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2003;9(3):403-404. doi:10.3201/eid0903.020208.

National Research Council, Division on Earth and Life Studies, Commission on Geosciences, Environment and Resources, Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, Committee on Climate, Ecosystems, Infectious Diseases, and Human Health National Academies Press, May 29, 2001 - Science - 160 pages

CFSPH Technical Fact Sheets, Giardiasis at http://www.cfsph.iastate.edu/DiseaseInfo/default.htm

We also have two other close etymological cousins:

Zoonoses (Greek “zoon” = animal) are diseases transmissible from living animals to humans.

Sapronoses (Greek “sapros” = decaying; “sapron” means in ecology a decaying organic substrate) are human diseases transmissible from abiotic environment (soil, water, decaying plants, or animal corpses, excreta, and other substrata)

  • 2
    Such diseases are anthroponotic - mention that. wikiwand.com/en/Anthroponotic_disease
    – NVZ
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 6:42
  • This is not quite correct if NVZ’s link is anything to go by. Just like zoonotic diseases originate in animals (and spread anywhere from there, including to humans), so anthroponotic diseases originate in humans, but can spread to anywhere, including other species of animals. If Nicole’s phrasing is to be taken literally, she is looking for a word for a disease that is only spread directly between humans, neither to nor from other species of animals. (I’m not aware of such a word, but I wasn’t aware of ‘anthroponotic’, either.) Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 10:10
  • @JanusBahsJacquetis Regarding the link you mentioned from NVZ, although a good recommendation, it's not quite as meticulous or comprehensive as the CDC link I gave. Read a few paragraphs down on the CDC link: "It can also be defined as a human-to-human [only] infection with no animal vector.[2]"
    – Kace36
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 10:28
  • It's good form to cite the source (in addition to linking to it).
    – Lawrence
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 15:04
  • 1
    Thanks, kace36! Regardless of the nuances Janus pointed out, I'd say this works well enough for what I'm looking for. Juxtaposed with zoonosis, I think it'll be clear that one category is animal<->human and another is human<->human.
    – Nicole
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 5:04

Such a disease is contagious; this is a word which is readily understood by most people and implies contact.

  • As I said in my question, "contagious disease" includes zoonotic diseases, and I'm specifically looking for a term that excludes them.
    – Nicole
    Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 16:30

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