Editorial: Major threat

Even as Covid-19 is seeing a decline, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned of the threat of an “inevitable” next pandemic of “Disease X”, raising concerns across the globe. Disease X was first coined in 2018 by the WHO, a year before the Covid-19 pandemic struck the world. It is among the WHO’s “Blue print list priority diseases” that could cause the next deadly pandemic and includes Ebola, SARS, and Zika.

“Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease,” the WHO said. The Blueprint list highlights infectious diseases for which we lack medical countermeasures. According to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), “the threat of Disease X infecting the human population, and spreading quickly around the world, is greater than ever before”.

Some public health experts believe the next Disease X will be zoonotic, meaning it will originate in wild or domestic animals, then spill over to infect humans, as Ebola, HIV/AIDS, and Covid-19. More than 1.6 million viruses are yet-to-be-discovered, and viral species from these viral families are estimated to exist in mammal and bird hosts — the most important reservoirs for viral zoonoses.