Unmasking Disease X : Is Humanity on the Brink of Catastrophe?Healthcare Nov-10-2023 0
The World Health Organization (WHO) admits that the next deadly pandemic could come from the spread of the Ebola virus, SARS or the Zika virus. However, scientists and doctors pay special attention to “Disease X”.
The term "Disease X Pandemic," which was first used by the World Health Organization, is raising concerns among medical professionals. They are cautioning us that the next pandemic may kill 20 times as many people as the coronavirus did. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, over 2.5 million individuals have sadly died worldwide.
An article in the scientific journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology (ICHE) states that “Disease X” is not a specific disease, but researchers and doctors are considering the possibility of a virus appearing out of nowhere.
“This is not science fiction. “Disease X is a scenario for which we need to be prepared utmost,” said Dr. Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. Johns Hopkins University researcher Pranab Chatterjee noted that an outbreak and the start of a new pandemic “may be just around the corner.”
Disease X - The Enigma
An infectious disease that has not yet been identified but could suddenly appear and inflict widespread illness and death is represented by the hypothetical idea known as Disease X. It could result from a brand-new pathogenic agent, such as a virus, bacteria, or other microbes, or it could be brought on by a complicated interaction of several variables. Disease X is a difficult thing to forecast or prepare for because its nature is unknown.
Emerging Pathogens Groups:
Following the outbreak of SARS in 2003 and the Middle East respiratory syndrome in 2012-2015, WHO created the Research and Development Plan for Epidemic Prevention. It is based on a list of “priority” diseases and pathogens that, according to experts, need to be given special attention. In particular, these are viral SARS, Ebola, Zika, Lassa, Dengue and Rift Valley fevers, Marburg, Chikungunya and Nipah viruses.
In February 2018, the line “Disease X” appeared in the list, which is regularly updated. This is the designation for a hypothetical infection caused by an unknown “pathogen X”, which may be associated with a future pandemic. This became a kind of reminder to all national health services that they need to be prepared for unexpected bacterial and viral infections: to have clinical and production capacity in reserve, to carry out epidemiological control, and to develop platforms for new drugs and vaccines.
In 2020, the WHO stated that the first “pathogen X” should rightfully be recognized as the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which caused the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, there is a high probability that others will follow him. Among the factors contributing to this, scientists name increased changes in the environment and the development of biological weapons.
“The next ‘disease X’ could appear at any moment, and the world must be prepared for it,” the organization’s experts write.
What pathogen can cause the next Disease X Pandemic?
• Bacteria: Bacterial infections like tuberculosis and antibiotic-resistant strains pose a constant threat. Emerging antibiotic resistance could lead to a Disease X scenario.
• Zoonotic Diseases: Many diseases, including COVID-19, originate in animals and can jump to humans. Continued encroachment into wildlife habitats and the global wildlife trade could facilitate the emergence of zoonotic pathogens.
• Prions: Abnormal proteins called prions can cause diseases like mad cow disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. A novel prion-related disorder could be a potential Disease X.
Is It Possible to Prevent the Next Pandemic Before It Starts?
In order to prevent the next pandemic from starting,
• Encourage one's own health : by realizing the connections between environmental, animal, and human health in order to identify and mitigate risks.
• Implement antimicrobial protocol : to fight drug-resistant bacteria when using antibiotics responsibly.
• Build Resilient Healthcare Systems: Strengthen healthcare infrastructure, including hospitals, laboratories, and supply chains, to handle surges in cases. Building capacity in healthcare systems will help them better respond to pandemics and to patients' regular medical requirements.
• Invest in intelligence: Create effective global monitoring systems to spot new risks before they become a problem.
• Strengthen Surveillance: Enhanced global surveillance systems are crucial to detect potential outbreaks early. Rapid identification and reporting of unusual disease patterns are essential.
• Research and Development: Investing in research on emerging infectious diseases and vaccine development is critical. Governments, organisations, and pharmaceutical companies must collaborate to accelerate vaccine production.
• Public Health Measures: Promoting hygiene, Use of masks in public places, vaccination, and quarantine measures can help mitigate the spread of infectious diseases.
Global Level Countermeasures
Addressing Disease X requires a coordinated, global response:
• International Collaboration: Countries must work together, sharing information, resources, and expertise to combat the spread of Disease X.
• Pandemic Preparedness Plans: Governments and organizations should develop comprehensive pandemic preparedness plans, including vaccine stockpiles, supply chain resilience, and surge healthcare capacity.
• Vaccination Equity: Ensuring equitable access to vaccines worldwide is essential to control the spread of Disease X.
Lessons from COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us invaluable lessons:
• Preparedness Matters: A proactive approach to pandemic preparedness, including robust healthcare systems and stockpiles of medical supplies, is essential.
• Effective Communication: Clear, timely, and accurate communication from authorities is vital to build public trust and facilitate a coordinated response.
• Science and Research: Investing in scientific research and international collaboration is key to understanding and combating emerging diseases.
Points to remember :
• Among people worldwide, there is no innate immunity.
• Airborne Transmission.
• Silent: Spreadable by sick individuals without symptoms
• Life threatening because there are no effective treatments or vaccines available in now
• Lack of Resources and Research.
• Lack of education among the population.
Countermeasures to Fight again the Disease X
Instead then focusing on a specific virus that may or may not represent a threat in the future, researchers should concentrate their efforts on creating medical countermeasures against the viral families most likely to cause pandemics.
The world should support a brand-new, focused Disease X Medical Countermeasure Program that employs the vaccine platforms and technological advances most suited to the virus families most likely to cause catastrophic disease outbreaks in the future.
When the next member of the viral family develops, medical countermeasures against one can readily be modified to target another.
With this adaptable strategy, public-private collaboration might produce vaccinations, antivirals, and diagnostics for several unidentified possible pandemic viruses in months rather than years.
Disease X represents an unpredictable and potentially catastrophic threat to global health. While we cannot predict the specifics of this unknown pathogen, we can prepare ourselves through robust surveillance, research, international collaboration, and strengthened healthcare systems. The lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic underscore the importance of proactive preparedness. In a world interconnected as never before, our collective response to Disease X will determine our ability to safeguard public health and prevent future pandemics.
Contributed by Dr. Rakesh Kumavat (MBBS)
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