Lightwood's law

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Lightwood's law is the principle that, in medicine, bacterial infections will tend to localise while viral infections will tend to spread.[1] This is based on the observation that while bacterial sepsis tends, despite affecting the whole body, to have a clear site of origin or 'focus', the opposite may be true of viral infections.[2] There may be multiple sites across the body which are affected including dermatological manifestations, respiratory symptoms and gastrointestinal symptoms.

This principle is by no means infallible and in clinical practice a variety of diagnostic tests are used to distinguish between bacterial and viral infections.


  1. ^ Denis Gill; Niall O'Brien (9 March 2017). Paediatric Clinical Examination Made Easy. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 246. ISBN 978-0-7020-7290-1.
  2. ^ Stephenson, Terence (2009). Swine Flu: What Parents Need to Know. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. p. 48. ISBN 978-1-84905-085-2. Retrieved 11 February 2021.