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Inoculation is the placement of something that will grow or reproduce, and is most commonly used in respect of the introduction of a serum, vaccine, or antigenic substance into the body of a human or animal, especially to produce or boost immunity to a specific disease. It can also be used to refer to the communication of a disease to a living organism by transferring its causative agent into the organism, to implant microorganisms or infectious material into a culture medium such as a brewers vat or a petri dish, to safeguard as if by inoculation, to introduce an idea or attitude into someone's mind, or any placement of microorganisms or viruses at a site where infection is possible such as to increase soybeans' nitrogen fixation one can treat soybeans at planting with Rhizobium japonicum inoculant. The verb "to inoculate" is from Middle English "inoculaten", which meant "to graft a scion" (a scion is a plant part to be grafted onto another plant); which in turn is from Latin "inoculare", past participle "inoculat-".[1][2]

This article covers variolation, inoculation as a method of purposefully infecting a person with smallpox (Variola) in a controlled manner so as to minimise the severity of the infection and also to induce immunity against further infection. See vaccination for post-variolation methods of safeguarding as if by inoculation by administering weakened or dead pathogens to a healthy person or animal with the intent of conferring immunity against a targeted form of a related disease agent.

Today the terms inoculation, vaccination and immunisation are used more or less interchangeably and popularly refer to the process of artificial induction of immunity against various infectious diseases. The microorganism used in an inoculation is called the inoculant or inoculum.




Some scholars suggest that the practice originated in India.[3] In the 18th century Dr. J.Z. Holwell wrote the most detailed account for the college of Physicians in London, describing not only inoculation, but also showing that the Indians knew that microbes caused such diseases:

They lay it down as a principle, that the immediate cause of the smallpox exists in the mortal part of every human and animal form; that the mediate (or second) acting cause, which stirs up the first, and throws it into a state of fermentation, is multitudes of imperceptible animalculae floating in the atmosphere; that these are the cause of all epidemical diseases, but more particularly of the small pox.[4]

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