Home/ Science / Health/  ‘Disease X’ can cause a more fatal pandemic? What WHO says

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has chalked out priority disease under their scanner at the present. While the UN's Health agency did not rule out the possibility of potentially pandemic causing pathogens on the Earth, the agency noted that due to lack of research and development technology, certain diseases and viruses are under WHO scanner. 

These include- 


-Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever

-Ebola virus disease and Marburg virus disease

-Lassa fever

-Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

Nipah and henipaviral diseases

-Rift Valley fever


-“Disease X"* 

The presence of this apocalyptic sounding 'Disease X" has caused concern after the official statement was released by WHO. 

Here's decoding the Disease X

What is ‘Disease X’?

According to WHO, Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease. The R&D Blueprint explicitly seeks to enable early cross-cutting R&D preparedness that is also relevant for an unknown “Disease X".

The possibility of what Disease X could be is a new agent - a virus, a bacterium or fungus - without any known treatments. 

Notably, when or if Disease X does emerge, whether in the form of a virus, bacterium, fungus, or another agent, we may witness a scarcity of vaccines or even effective treatments.

Is ‘Disease X’ fatal? Can it cause a pandemic?

World Health Organisation (WHO) started using the term Disease X for any unknown disease in 2018. Notably, a year later Covid-19 emerged as a pandemic causing virus. 

The term has led to deliberations across the world, with many experts claiming that the next Disease X will be zoonotic, like Ebola and Covid-19.

Others said the pathogen could also be created by humans.

"It is not an exaggeration to say that there is potential of a Disease X event just around the corner," Pranab Chatterjee, researcher at the Department of International Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, told The National Post.

"The recent spate of H5N1 bird flu cases in Cambodia is just a case in point," he added.

Sayantani Biswas
Sayantani is a senior content producer with LiveMint. She covers stories of Human Interest, Politics, Pandemic, Offbeat narratives and some more.
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Updated: 26 May 2023, 06:14 PM IST
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