(CTN NEWS) – The World Health Organization (WHO) has now disclosed that it is updating its list of viruses that may result in pandemics and future outbreaks.
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a recent increase in interest in diseases and viruses, and people are now slightly more cautious about germs than before 2020.
The following illnesses are now included on the list, which was originally published in 2017:
- Crimean-Cong hemorrhagic fever
- Ebola virus disease and Marburg virus disease
- Lassa fever
- Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)
- Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
- Nipah and henipaviral diseases
- Rift Valley fever
- Disease X
In a press release, the WHO said that it would update this list the next year as part of a “global scientific process” that will serve as a roadmap for upcoming research and development, particularly in the areas of vaccinations, testing, and treatments.
The WHO has assembled more than 300 scientists to examine data on more than 25 viral families, bacterial species, and Disease X. (more on that in a minute).
According to Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program,
“targeting priority pathogens and viral families for research and development of countermeasures is vital for a timely and successful epidemic and pandemic response.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, “huge R&D spending made it possible to create safe and effective vaccinations in record time.”
It makes sense to have concerns about this list, particularly the enigmatic illness X. Let’s get to it.
What Use Does This List Serve?
Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, describes these pathogens as “all essential infections for which there is a paucity of vaccinations and medicines.”
But not all of them, according to Thomas Russo, M.D., professor and department head of infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo in New York, has the potential to spread globally like COVID-19.
But they might also start new outbreaks.
According to Dr. Adalja, this list “may serve as recommendations for companies and non-governmental organizations to prioritize the development of medical countermeasures.”
In other words, it can help the scientific community and those who support international scientific research to identify the diseases and viruses that require the most funding.
Disease X, What Is It?
Right now, disease X doesn’t exist. The WHO clarifies that it is a name given to a “unknown pathogen that could cause a serious international epidemic.”
Dr. Adalja states, “Disease X is a stand-in for a disease not on the list and not regarded as a concern.”
According to Dr. Russo, disease X “may be anything,” but there is a danger that another coronavirus or flu will spread from mostly afflicting animals to humans.
“We are concerned about alterations that would facilitate effective transmission,” he continues.
Is COVID-19 Disease X?
Does the idea of an undiscovered virus suddenly cause a global epidemic ring familiar? There is a disagreement among physicians as to whether COVID-19 qualifies as Disease X.
According to some, the virus matched the requirements to be regarded as the first Disease X, while Zika virus is claimed to have been the first Disease X. Others assert that Disease X has not yet occurred.
Dr. Adalja does not consider COVID-19X.
“I do not believe COVID can be considered Disease X because Coronaviruses have beena threat since at least 2003 after SARS,” he says.
Scientists will consider evidence on viruses & bacteria and include space for an unknown pathogen, labelled as 'Disease X', to represent the as yet unknown https://t.co/w0cP9fE67Z pic.twitter.com/EZ5zSnWxj7
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) November 21, 2022
“After MERS was discovered a decade later, this determination was strengthened.”
Although there is disagreement on this, William Schaffner, M.D., an infectious disease expert and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, says he “would put COVID-19 into the Disease X category.”
Will There Be Another Disease X?
Doctors concur that Disease X will return. “Unquestionably, yeah. There is no question,” claims Dr.
“Public health and infectious disease experts concur completely on that. Although I can’t predict the virus or the timing, it will happen.”
Several factors, according to Dr. Schaffner, make it likely that Disease X may recur:
- People now reside nearer to animals. He says, “The world’s population is growing, and people are moving into areas that were formerly forests and lightly populated by humans.” “We interact considerably more frequently with insects, mammals, and other virus-producing species.” As a result, according to Dr. Schaffner, “there will be opportunities for these viruses to jump species.”
- The globe is becoming more and more connected. Almost everyone in the globe is boarding aeroplanes, according to Dr. Schaffner. Within 12 hours, “what’s out there” could be “over here.”
We live on a planet where microbial life predominates, therefore, there will always be new infectious illness concerns, according to Dr. Adalja. He does, however, emphasize that “most threats will not have pandemic potential.”
Dr. Russo concurs that” a new Disease X is on the horizon. He asserts there is little doubt that further pandemics and breakouts will occur.” “The only question is when,”
However, Dr. Schaffner does not believe this list of dangerous pathogens will alter very soon. He remarks, “This is a good list. Although they can’t predict which viruses will spark an outbreak, these make sense.”
The revised list of priority pathogens is expected to be published in the first quarter of 2023.
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