Following the second annual review of the Blueprint list at its Geneva headquarters, World Health Organization experts have included Disease X, caused by such a newfound pathogen, on their list.
These diseases have killed and will continue to kill millions of people due to their resistance to many drugs and the lack of effective treatments available to counter them.
This placeholder of sorts is included in the WHO's list of prioritized diseases (first made public in December 2015 and later reviewed in January 2017) in order to "enable cross-cutting R&D preparedness that is also relevant for an unknown "Disease X" as far as possible". Experts believe that this unknown pathogen may go unnoticed until it is too late when it has already spread to all nooks of the globe, taking the world by surprise.
This year, for the first time, the World Health Organization added Disease X to the list, in an acknowledgment of the fact it's highly probable another pathogen will soon be added to this record - and by increasing awareness of that probability, it may actually boost research efforts to combat the imminent, unknown, threat. "Just the way we didn't anticipate Zika, we didn't think there would be an Ebola that would hit cities".
"Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious worldwide epidemic could be caused by a pathogen now unknown to cause human disease".
Disease X could also be a zoonose like HIV, salmonella, and Ebola, all of which originated in animals but crossed over the humans in the 19th and 20th century. "It may seem odd to add an "X", but it's about making sure that we flexibly prepare and plan diagnostic tests and systems that will allow us to create countermeasures as quickly as possible ". "We want to see "plug and play" platforms developed which will work for any, or a wide number of diseases; systems that will allow us to create countermeasures at speed".
As well as the priority list, WHO listed dengue, yellow fever and HIV/AIDS, as being outside the current scope of the list while still continuing to pose major public health issues. In fact, as far as viruses are concerned, that evolution is very much a natural process - one that we need to be aware of and prepare for. This has also brought us in closer contact and closer contact with more species of animals than ever before, exponentially increasing the likelihood of zoonoses.
"It is probably the greatest risk".