TBEN Explainer: What is ‘Disease X’ and how is it going to impact the world?


In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, there is an increased level of understanding that there are unknown threats to humanity that may lead to the next pandemic.

Representative of this unknown factor is “disease X”. It is not a disease technically but rather an area of ​​research for scientists who study pandemics. A recent TBEN report quoted Professor Jean-Jacques Muyembe Tamfum, who discovered the Ebola virus in 1976, as saying that deadly new viruses were about to strike humanity.

What is “disease X”?

“Disease X” is a name adopted by the World Health Organization to designate a potential disease yet to be discovered. It is on the shortlist of pathogens, considered a model for priority diseases. WHO says “disease X” represents “knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a [unknown, hypothetical] currently unknown pathogen to cause human disease. “

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Disease X is in the list of viruses, which include names such as Ebola, MERS, SARS, Lassa fever, Nipah, and Zika, among others.

“This list is not exhaustive and does not indicate the most probable causes of the next epidemic. WHO reviews and updates this list as needs arise and methodologies change. Based on priority diseases, WHO then works on developing R&D roadmaps for each one, ”WHO said of this list.

Recent interest in ‘Disease X’

In an intriguing case, a woman in a remote village in the Democratic Republic of the Congo exhibited symptoms of hemorrhagic fever, but her test reports for various viruses, including Ebola, came back negative. This led to the fear of a new disease. Dr Dadin Bonkole, the woman’s doctor, told an American news channel that everyone should be afraid.

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Professor Tamfum said the new infection could be deadlier than Ebola and COVID-19. He warned that more zoonotic diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans could arise in the future.

A TBEN report said scientists have found at least 200 such viruses that can cause disease in humans since yellow fever in 1901. The growing number of these diseases is due to the destruction of ecology and trade in wildlife, experts say.

Why “Disease X”?

“It might sound strange to add an ‘X’, but the point is to make sure that we prepare and plan flexibly in terms of vaccines and diagnostic tests,” said the WHO committee adviser. , John-Arne Rottingen, in an interview with The Telegraph in 2018.

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“We want to see ‘plug and play’ platforms developed that will work for any disease or a large number of diseases; systems that will allow us to create countermeasures at high speed, ”Rottingen added.

In February 2018, “ Disease X ” was added as a placeholder for an “ unknown knowable ” pathogen in order to develop new strategies to combat these pathogens.

“The best time to prevent the next pandemic is now,” the WHO said.

Taking the example of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world should beware of another pandemic, which could turn out to be worse.



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