Disease X?

July 17, 2018 0 By CH Unnikrishnan

WHO warns of possible outbreak of an unknown bug which can cause a pandemic

The World Health Organization (WHO) has added Disease X to its latest list of pathogens, highlighting its potential to become a worldwide epidemic.
The world body did not specify the type or the nature of the pathogen which could give rise to such a serious global outbreak. Disease X could just as well be caused by an organism currently not on the list of known human pathogens, it said in the its second annual review of public health emergency research and development blueprint.

The organization marked this future disease as one requiring urgent and accelerated R&D.
“Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease, and so the R&D Blueprint explicitly seeks to enable cross-cutting R&D preparedness that is also relevant for an unknown “Disease X” as far as possible.”

As part of the R&D Blueprint, the WHO has developed a special tool for determining which diseases and pathogens to prioritize for research and development in public health emergency contexts. The tool seeks to identify the diseases that pose a public health risk because of their epidemic potential and for which there are no, or insufficient, countermeasures.

The diseases identified through this process are the focus of the R&D Blueprint. This is not an exhaustive list, nor does it indicate the most likely causes of the next epidemic, the body indicated.

The WHO released the first of its lists of prioritized diseases in December 2015.
At the latest meeting held in February, a number of additional diseases were discussed and considered for inclusion in the priority list, including Arenaviral hemorrhagic fevers other than Lassa Fever; Chikungunya; highly pathogenic coronaviral diseases other than MERS and SARS; emergent non-polio enteroviruses (including EV71, D68); and Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (SFTS).

These diseases pose major public health risks and they should be watched carefully and considered again at the next annual review, it said. Efforts in the interim to understand and mitigate them are encouraged, it added.

WHO list of Blueprint prioritised diseases 2018*

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF)
Ebola virus disease and Marburg virus disease
Lassa fever
Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
Nipah and henipaviral diseases
Rift Valley fever (RVF)
Disease X
*The order of diseases on this list does not denote any ranking of priority.