What is Disease ‘X’? Is it another pandemic in the making?
A lot of chaos is being spread across various news channels and websites to keep people interested in pandemics. We have not yet recovered from coronavirus (covid-19) and news regarding ‘Disease X’ has started resurfacing. Yes, it is not a new concept but an old one.
So What is Disease ‘X’? Is it another pandemic in the making?
‘Disease X‘ is actually the name given to the so-called Hypothetical Diseases. These diseases are speculated to be dangerous and can become a problem in the future, just like covid-19. It is just a placeholder name (an irrelevant name given to something until a specific name is given).
The Concept of ‘Disease X‘ was actually started long back in 2015. It was started to motivate and warn researchers at the same time. It was done so that broader research can be done on many different classes of viruses instead of a particular one. The advantage of this concept was that if in future a particular strain goes rogue (wild), it’s handling would be done with advance preparation.
In fact, our current villain Covid-19 is the first ‘Disease X‘ according to experts in WHO. There’s a research committee in WHO named ‘R&D Blueprint Scientific Advisory Group’ which was told by WHO to make a list of viruses or diseases which can be potential candidates for pandemics. This list included viruses like Ebola, Zika, SARS (sibling of covid-19), Lassa fever, Marburg virus, Rift valley fever, Nipah Virus etc. Then in 2018 WHO added another disease named ‘Disease X’ (no known pathogen that’s why just ‘X’, it means Unexpected or Unknown).
This Disease X was added back in 2018 because at that time WHO predicted that some disease or outbreak will happen in future which nobody has seen before (hint: Covid-19).
At that time, Director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr Anthony Fauci, who is also currently handling the Covid-19 pandemic responsibilities in the US, advised WHO to study a whole class of viruses instead of particular ones from that class so that advance knowledge can be gained from them. This was supposed to help them in fighting this unknown virus.
The most popular candidates who were speculated to be the cause of ‘Diseases X‘ were Zoonotic viruses, H7N9 (bird flu virus), coronavirus (Covid-19), synthetic viruses aka Bioweapons and bacterial infections like Superbugs which are antibiotic-resistant due to overuse of antibiotics. In fact, the drug ‘Remdesivir’, which was proposed to work against Covid-19 was initially adopted and researched to work against the Disease X.
All this was done to ensure that advance preparation could be done to take action on time like stopping the outbreaks and making the availability of vaccine and other treatment options as early as possible. So in short, your first ‘Disease X’ is your Covid-19. Many more will surface from time to time. Evolution is not gonna go anywhere anytime soon.
Why Disease X is being discussed again in the news?
A recent case in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo has been under Radar because it was showing features like Ebola but when tested it was not Ebola or any other known virus-like. So it was speculated by Professor Jean-Jacques Muyembe Tamfum, who helped discover the Ebola virus in 1976 and has been on the frontline of the hunt for new pathogens ever since, that it might be a new virus with a potential to cause another pandemic like Covid-19.
Read Complete and detailed story about new Congo virus on CNN World.