The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a list of priority diseases for 2018. It encourages researchers to guide their efforts towards these diseases for which there is either no treatment or insufficient treatment. The list of priority diseases which pose a significant risk to public health this year includes the Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (CCHF), the Ebola and Marburg’s disease, the Lassa fever, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and Northern Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), the infections with Nipah virus and hepatitis virus, Great Rift Valley Fever, Zika, and the mysterious Disease X.
What is Disease X?
According to the WHO’s representatives, the Disease X is an epidemic caused by a yet unknown pathogen. They admitted that they put the strange malady on the list of priority diseases to signal that the international teams of virologists are aware of this possibility and are working to a plan on how to act when such an event occurs.
John-Arne Rottingen, a scientist and an adviser at WHO, considers that the next deadly pandemic will be caused by a pathogen we know nothing about yet. He said that “it may seem strange to be adding an ‘X,’ but the point is to make sure we prepare and plan flexibly in terms of vaccines and diagnostic tests.”
How is Disease X expected to appear?
The WHO’s scientists have thought about this, too. According to them, the increasing research in biological warfare can lead to the creation of a very virulent pathogen that can get out of control and cause a deadly pandemic. But, in such cases, there will also be a vaccine created.
However, the most dangerous seems to be a naturally occurring unknown pathogen. As it has already happened in the past with the Spanish Flu and HIV, it could also occur in the future, and the next pandemic, Disease X, could be very hard to overcome.
WHO will put Disease X on the priority diseases list to force scientists to double their efforts to develop reliable protection against unknown pathogens.