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What is Disease X? Scientists Who Discovered Ebola Warn of Life-threatening Viruses | India News


NEW DELHI: Scientists who helped discover the Ebola virus in 1976 warned against an unknown number of new and potentially fatal viruses facing humanity, among which is ‘Disease X’.
“We are now in a world where new pathogens will emerge,” said Professor Jean-Jacques Muyembe Tamfum, who helped discover the Ebola virus in 1976, adding: “And that is what constitutes a threat to humanity.”
Muyembe’s statement comes immediately after a patient was infected with a pathogen that has yet to be identified but had symptoms similar to Ebola.
In a remote town in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a woman showed the first signs of hemorrhagic fever last month. Their samples were tested for Ebola and other illnesses with similar symptoms.
They all tested negative, making the woman’s disease a mystery.
Scientists speculated if it could be patient zero of “Disease X”, the first known infection of a new pathogen that, according to the researchers, could be more contagious than Covid-19 and with a mortality rate of 50% to 90 % of Ebola.
In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) published its global plan to accelerate research and development during health emergencies and also included “Disease X” in its ‘R&D Plan 2018’.
The 2018 research and development plan prioritized nine diseases for research and development, consisting of Covid-19, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, Ebola virus disease and Marburg virus disease, Lassa fever, coronavirus. Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). ), Nipah and henipaviral disease, Rift Valley fever, Zika and the latest addition, “Disease X”.
All of these diseases lack an effective drug or vaccine.
What is Disease X?
“X” stands for unexpected, explained Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The WHO said it “represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a currently unknown pathogen to cause human disease.”
As of now, Disease X remains hypothetical, an outbreak that scientists and public health experts fear could lead to serious illness around the world if and when it occurs.
Speaking to CNN, Muyembe warned of many more zoonotic diseases, those that jump from animals to humans, to come.
Zoonotic diseases like yellow fever, rabies, brucellosis, and Lyme disease spread from animals to humans and have caused epidemics and pandemics before. While deadly HIV arose from one type of chimpanzee and later morphed into a fatal disease, SARS-CoV-2, along with SARS and MERS are all coronaviruses that have suddenly passed from animals to humans.
(With inputs from agencies)

Times of India