New Delhi: An alarming warning has been issued regarding the potential emergence of a new pandemic referred to as "Disease X" by the World Health Organization (WHO). Dame Kate Bingham, who chaired the UK's Vaccine Taskforce, has raised concerns that Disease X could prove even deadlier than Covid-19, potentially claiming the lives of at least 50 million people worldwide. She emphasized that this new disease is likely to start spreading on a massive scale, stating, "Somewhere in the world, it's replicating, and sooner or later, somebody will start feeling sick."
Disease X, according to WHO, represents the concept that a severe global epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease. This pathogen could be a novel agent, such as a virus, bacterium, or fungus, for which there are no known treatments or vaccines.
Dr. Neha Rastogi, a Consultant at Fortis Memorial Research Institute in Gurugram, suggests that Disease X may be linked to a zoonotic disease, likely caused by an RNA virus. It could emerge in an environment where the conditions favor sustained transmission between hosts, including humans.
The concern surrounding Disease X comes shortly after WHO declared that Covid-19 was no longer a global emergency, signaling the conclusion of the pandemic that had caused widespread panic and claimed the lives of at least 7 million people globally.
In 2017, WHO published a list of pathogens with the potential to cause deadly pandemics. This list included COVID-19, Ebola virus disease, Marburg virus disease, Lassa fever, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Nipah, Zika, and most recently, Disease X.
The emergence of Disease X underscores the ongoing need for global preparedness and vigilance in monitoring and responding to emerging infectious diseases that could pose a significant threat to public health.