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6 months ago
'Disease X' added to list of potential pandemic killers by WHO

New Delhi: Listing 'Disease X' among priority diseases, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for urgent measures to accelerate research and development to tackle it, as it could 'potentially trigger a deadly global epidemic in the near future'.

"Disease X" was listed in the 2018 annual review of R&D Blueprint, a list developed by the WHO to identify, prioritize and accelerate research and development for diseases that lack efficacious drugs and/or vaccines, and pose a public health risk.

The R&D Blueprint was born as a result of the Ebola emergency in West Africa which began in March 2014.

According to WHO, the name 'Disease X' "represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease."

Thus, the new report "explicitly seeks to enable cross-cutting research and development preparedness that is also relevant for an unknown 'Disease X' as far as possible".

Along with disease X, the WHO named seven other potential global disease threats, each lacking an effective drug or vaccine.

These include Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF); 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 (RVF); and Zika.

These diseases pose major public health risks and further research and development are needed, including surveillance and diagnostics.

They should be watched carefully and considered again at the next annual review. Efforts in the interim to understand and mitigate them are encouraged, the statement said.

Outside the 2018 Blueprint, the WHO also mentioned dengue, yellow fever, HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis, malaria, influenza causing severe human disease, smallpox, cholera, leishmaniasis, West Nile Virus, and plague, saying further research and development is needed to tackle these diseases.

(With IANS inputs)

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