Scientists put on alert for deadly new pathogen - 'Disease X'

What is Disease X

But what has many observers concerned most is the list's inclusion, for the first time ever, of Disease X, which, according to the World Health Organization, "represents the knowledge that a serious worldwide epidemic could be caused by a pathogen now unknown to cause human disease".

WHO's Research and Development (R&D) Blueprint list tries to distinguish diseases that represent a general health hazard due to their potential for starting a plague and for which there are no, or deficient, countermeasures.

Luckily, for now, it all hinges on that "could".

The WHO is concerned about the fact that use of chemical warfare is on the rise and says deadly new diseases have recently been deliberately created through gene editing.

"Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious worldwide epidemic could be caused by a pathogen now unknown to cause human disease".

"These diseases pose major public health risks and further research and development is needed, including surveillance and diagnostics", the WHO said in a press release. The mysterious nature of the disease is meant to ensure flexible planning of diagnostics tests and vaccine strategies, so that that they may be applied to a wide range of possible scenarios.

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World Health Organization committee scientific adviser John-Arne Rottingen believes the next major outbreak of disease will be something humanity has not seen before. Ebola is also a zoonosis.

In modern times, humans have spread across the face of the planet, inhabiting and shaping virtually all ecosystems.

The power of animal and human contact has ended up to be significantly more prominent as the world develops. "It is vital that we are aware and prepare".

"It is probably the greatest risk". Even fatal, Disease X could be promoted by just an accident or a terror attack.

This is important, because it is primary care systems - local doctors and nurses - that provide the best bet of detecting the outbreak of a new disease early and containing it before it spreads. Others on the list include Ebola, Zika and Lassa fever.

The R&D Blueprint was initially released in 2015, and is reviewed on an annual basis, with the World Health Organization explaining it exists to prioritise the top emerging pathogens likely to cause severe outbreaks in the near future, for which few or no medical countermeasures exist.

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