The next pandemic could already be among us and we may not have even noticed it. In fact, in the nearest city, deep in the dark recesses of a cave or perhaps in one of the thousands of species native to the Amazon, the dreaded ‘disease X’ may be found.
Disease X is the mysterious name given to the very serious threat that unknown viruses represent to human health. Disease
Each year, the WHO updates the list with guidance from experts in all fields of scientific study on which pathogens pose the greatest threat of causing the next global pandemic.
While we have seen the impact most of these can have – there have been major SARS, Ebola and Zika pandemics in the last 15 years alone – we have no idea what Disease X can do, because we don’t know what Disease .
About the particular list
“Targeting priority pathogens and virus families for research and countermeasure development is essential for rapid and effective response to epidemics and pandemics. Without significant investments in R&D before the Covid-19 pandemic, it would not have been possible to develop safe and effective vaccines in record time,” said Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme.
While scientists were unaware of SARS-CoV-2 until the Covid-19 pandemic it caused began in late 2019, “Disease .
“This list of priority pathogens has become a reference point for the research community on where to focus energies to manage the next threat,” Soumya Swaminathan, WHO chief scientist, said in a statement.
“It is developed together with experts in the field and is the agreed direction in which we, as a global research community, need to invest energy and funds to develop tests, treatments and vaccines.”
This time, scientists will be asked to take a broader approach to identifying potential threats, one that focuses more on families of pathogens rather than individual germs, a change inspired by lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic. according to the WHO.
Especially since there are 1.67 million unknown viruses on this planet. Using best estimates, between 631,000 and 827,000 of them have the capacity to infect people. Currently, scientists know of only 263 viruses that can do this, meaning we know almost nothing about 99.96 percent of potential pandemic threats.
Today, more infectious outbreaks seem inevitable
“It’s not an exaggeration to say that there is the potential for a Disease “The recent wave of H5N1 bird flu cases in Cambodia is just one example.”
It will take creativity and vigilance to track and anticipate the next outbreak, says Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, a global environmental nonprofit based in New York. “Nature is producing new viruses all the time… What we are trying to say (with Disease to future and emerging pandemic pathogens.”
The next Disease Ebola, HIV-AIDS, rabies and COVID-19 immediately come to mind.
Data suggest that almost all recent infectious diseases of global concern, including COVID-19, are caused by animal viruses that have been transmitted to humans.
Therefore, zoonotic viruses remain the pathogens of interest as future diseases with pandemic potential. Even those that already come from a known source could become something new and threatening, says Barney Graham, senior adviser for global health equity at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.