New Delhi, January 19: With the world navigating the aftermath of Covid-19, attention is shifting towards a potentially more devastating threat currently known as Disease X which is believed to be 20 times more deadlier than Covid-19. This hypothetical pathogen, representing an unknown and unforeseen infectious disease, could lead to a future pandemic.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has placed Disease X alongside other high-priority diseases such as Ebola and Zika virus in its awareness campaigns. The term Disease X was coined to prompt the international community to prepare for a potential pathogen that could cause an epidemic or pandemic more catastrophic than Covid-19.

What is Disease X?

Disease X is a placeholder term used by the World Health Organization (WHO) to represent a hypothetical, unknown pathogen that could cause a future epidemic or pandemic. The term was adopted by the WHO in February 2018 to ensure that their planning was sufficiently flexible to adapt to an unknown pathogen. COVID-19 in China: Chinese Lab Mapped SARS-CoV-2 Virus Weeks Before Official Information, Says Report.

The session, titled “Preparing for Disease X,” at the World Economic Forum in Davos, aimed to explore novel efforts needed to prepare healthcare systems for multiple challenges ahead and to prevent the collapse of national healthcare infrastructures as witnessed during the 2020 crisis. China Experimenting With New Deadly COVID-19-Like Virus That Can Cause 100% Mortality in Mice: Report.

Scientists are not sitting idle. They are actively working on platform technologies that could be rapidly adapted to combat Disease X. For instance, researchers from the University of Oxford are investigating how to modify the vaccine created for Covid-19 to address Disease X. They are also exploring how other vaccines could be developed quickly to counter future threats.

With the establishment of entities such as the Pandemic Fund and the WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence, the groundwork for a safer world is being laid.

While the WHO has yet to specify which virus Disease X might be, experts say it is highly likely to be a respiratory virus due to their high survival rates. The current list of major zoonotic viruses that threaten us includes Covid-19, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, Ebola, Marburg, Lassa fever, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and SARS, Nipah and henipaviral diseases, Rift Valley Fever and Zika, all of which have been discovered in India as well.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Jan 19, 2024 11:34 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website