Disease X seem to be the new potential Pandemic. Concerns over this mysterious disease have resurfaced, with a prominent UK health expert warning of its potential to trigger another pandemic akin to the COVID-19 crisis, potentially claiming millions of lives.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has also taken heed of this ominous threat, officially listing Disease X among its “priority diseases” on its website, alongside notorious pathogens like COVID-19, Ebola, Lassa fever, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), Nipah, and Zika, all of which have previously led to widespread fatalities during outbreaks.
What Exactly is Disease X?
Disease X, as per the WHO’s definition, represents the knowledge that a severe international epidemic could be triggered by a pathogen currently unidentified as the cause of human disease. It remains an enigmatic entity that could manifest as a new virus, bacterium, or fungus, for which there are no known treatments.
A Not-So-New, But Still Unknown Threat
While Disease X might seem like a novel concept, the Lancet reported that the WHO officially introduced this term in 2018. It embodies the notion of an as-yet-unknown disease with the potential for an epidemic. This realization has prompted experts to call for intensified research efforts aimed at identifying the elusive pathogen that could potentially unleash another global pandemic.
Disease X: WHO’s Research & Development Path
In response to the looming threat of Disease X, the WHO has been collaborating with scientists to develop a customizable formula for vaccine creation. This innovative approach involves sequencing the unique genetic makeup of the virus responsible for the disease during an outbreak.
By doing so, scientists can plug this genetic sequence into a pre-existing platform to rapidly manufacture a new vaccine. This initiative, known as the R&D Blueprint, was born out of the Ebola crisis that struck West Africa in March 2014, highlighting the importance of preparedness for emerging diseases.
Other Potential Pandemic Triggers
Aside from Disease X, the global health community is also monitoring other concerning developments. In August, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that they were closely tracking a highly mutated lineage of the virus responsible for COVID-19. This variant, named BA.2.86, has been detected in the United States, Denmark, and Israel, raising concerns due to its extensive genetic mutations.
The WHO has categorized BA.2.86 as a “variant under monitoring,” further underscoring the need for vigilance in the face of evolving pathogens that could potentially spark the next pandemic.
The resurgence of Disease X on the global health radar serves as a stark reminder of the unpredictable nature of infectious diseases and the ongoing importance of robust research, preparedness, and international cooperation to mitigate the risks posed by emerging pathogens. As scientists and health organizations remain vigilant, the world watches closely, hoping to avert another devastating pandemic.