Published: Mon, March 12, 2018
Health | By Jay Jacobs

WHO Lists Mysterious 'Disease X' as Next Possible Worldwide Epidemic

WHO Lists Mysterious 'Disease X' as Next Possible Worldwide Epidemic

The World Health Organization has added a mysterious disease to its already deadly roster of maladies like Ebola, Zika and SARS. Contenders are weighed primarily on their potential to rapidly epidemics of huge proportions, even global pandemics, as well as the real-life damage they have proven capable of. In fact, it's not actually "real" in the strict sense of the word - Disease X is a hypothetical virus.

By placing this mystery illness on the "List of Blueprint priority diseases", alongside conditions such as MERS and the Marburg Virus, WHO acknowledges that infectious diseases can happen anytime, and are highly unpredictable.

For the purposes of the R&D Blueprint, the WHO developed a special tool for determining which diseases and pathogens to prioritize for research and development in public health emergency contexts.

John-Arne Rottingen, chief executive of the Research Council of Norway and adviser to the World Health Organization, told the Telegraph: 'History tells us that it is likely the next big outbreak will be something we have not seen before'.

Disease X "represents the knowledge that a serious global epidemic could be caused by a pathogen now unknown to cause human disease", the Geneva-based World Health Organization said.

It added Disease X to the rundown after a yearly survey completed from February 6-7, cautioning that there is a "pressing need" for quickened innovative work for the maladies on the rundown.

"There is a need to assess the value, where possible, of developing countermeasures for multiple diseases or for families of pathogens", it said. The US and USSR have experimented biological weapons during the Cold War.

Disease X can be zoonotic or Zoonoses, diseases which wild and domesticated animals had and can be transmitted to humans. "It is probably the greatest risk", said Mr Rottingen.

The WHO also hopes it will drive governments across the globe to invest in strengthening local health systems.

In particular, these experts recognized that existing drugs and vaccines need further improvement for several of the diseases considered but not included in the priority list.

Code-named "Disease X", this mystery pathogen hasn't even been discovered yet, but the looming threat of its nearly certain inevitability has secured it a place on the WHO's "most dangerous" list: a catalogue of potential future epidemics for which countermeasures are insufficient - or don't exist at all.

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