Published: Mon, March 12, 2018
Medical | By Marta Holmes

"Disease X" May cause a Worldwide Epidemic


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.

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.

The WHO experts named the diseases as having epidemic potential as there is an absence of "efficacious drugs and or vaccines".

The R&D Blueprint explicitly seeks to enable R&D preparedness that is relevant for an unknown "Disease X".

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"It may seem odd to be adding an 'X, ' but the point is make sure we prepare and plan flexibly in terms of vaccines and diagnostic tests", Rottingen told the newspaper.

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

"Disease X" is the code name for an unknown pathogen that could be created by biological mutation, such as previous deadly epidemics such as Spanish Flu or HIV, the organization said.

Disease X can be zoonotic or Zoonoses, diseases which wild and domesticated animals had and can be transmitted to humans. "It is vital that we are aware and prepare". The US and USSR have experimented biological weapons during the Cold War. "It is probably the greatest risk", said Mr Rottingen.

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Given the rapid development of gene-editing technologies, Disease X could also spring up from human error or malevolence - in which case, having a flexible, widely-applicable plan of action is of paramount importance.

More importantly, this list of diseases are ones to avoid.

This tool seeks to identify those diseases that pose a public health risk due to their epidemic potential and for which there are no, or insufficient, countermeasures. Primary care systems (local doctors and nurses) are key to safeguarding public health, as they're our best bet for detecting outbreaks of a new disease early on, and containing it before it spreads. It's a so-called "known unknown" that the World Health Organization says we need to be prepared for, which is why the mystery malady is now on the agency's R&D Blueprint of priority diseases. These classes will be considered for inclusion on next year's list.

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