1-. Salmonella is considered one of the most important causal agents of food-borne illness in developed countries. (US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health)

After having read the defintion of causal (of, relating to, or being a cause of something; causing), I am still not able to understand what this word adds to the meaning of the above sentence.

Stated otherwise, what is the difference in meaning between 1 case above and 2 case below?

2-. Salmonella is considered one of the most important agents of food-borne illness in developed countries.

  • Idk, but in order to differentiate from resultant agents, perhaps? – mcalex Mar 23 '13 at 18:17
  • I think you could get away with an omission of causal, but, for the reasons @WendiKidd mentions, I believe the sentence reads better with the inclusion of the word. – J.R. Mar 23 '13 at 20:04
  • @J.R. Yes, you and Wendy are surely right, but, at least in reference to the abstract correlation between English and Italian, which in some case exist, "causal" doesn't make sense. If any, "causative" would be a better word: "the most important causative agents ..." = "the most important agents that cause (read 'cause'='produce') ..." :) – user114 Mar 23 '13 at 20:57
  • @Carlo_R. Reference: thefreedictionary.com/causative It would seem that "causative" used as a noun would have almost identical meaning to "causal agent", though I'd think "causal agent" would be used more commonly. – WendiKidd Mar 24 '13 at 0:22

In this context, a 'causal agent' refers to an object which causes food-borne illness. This is one phrase together, not just two separate words.

See the definition of "causal agent" here:

causal agent (noun)

any entity that produces an effect or is responsible for events or results

So they're saying that salmonella causes most food-borne illness in developed countries.

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