What is Disease X? Is It the Next Global Pandemic?

After three years of COVID-19, the world is finally returning to normal life, but the scientific and public health community is already planning for the next major pandemic. Simply put, they don’t yet know what the illness will be.

As per the estimates by scientists, there are nearly 1.67 million not known viruses in mammals and birds, with around half of them likely to have the potential to infect humans. WHO gave this unnamed future outbreak a placeholder name as early as 2018: Disease X. The WHO defined it as “knowledge that a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease could be the source of a serious international epidemic.” After one year, COVID-19 was recognized as the first in the mysterious category that scientists had given warning signs about.

What is Disease X?

The next Disease X is coming and intends to be zoonotic which is caused by pathogens that can transmit from animals to humans. Since that’s the case with nearly 75% of growing infectious diseases. HIV-AIDS, Ebola, COVID-19, and rabies come to mind immediately. However, there are other sources that could lead to the next pandemic. Another potential source might be zombie viruses that have been locked in frozen landscapes for years but are released through a warming climate.

According to data, COVID-19 and most other recent infectious diseases of international concern are brought on by animal viruses transmitted to humans. Therefore, zoonotic viruses remain the pathogens of interest for possible pandemic diseases in the future. Barney Graham, the senior adviser for global health equity at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, claims that even those that are currently from a well-known source may develop into something brand-new and dangerous.

Around 1.67 Million Unknown Viruses

All of the 1.67m unknown viruses are related to around 25 viral families. According to scientists, they’ve recognized 120 viruses from these viral families that are a threat to humans. Virtually, it is not possible to get ready for each viral pandemic threat, but scientists have a plan to spot prototype viruses from these families that can cause risk to humans.

Since the primary drivers of the next Disease X pandemic seem to be land use change, deforestation, population growth, and activities such as wildlife trade, where “humans come in contact with ‘new to us’ pathogens,” as per the chief content officer of Programme for Monitoring Emerging Diseases in Maryland, named Jarod Hanson. “By the time we detect the presence of Disease X in humans, spillover has already occurred.

Zoonotic diseases teach us the importance of making a plan that will take into account how human, animal, and environmental health are interconnected at the time of emergent epidemics. One such strategy is referred to as One Health, which, in the words of Chatterjee of Johns Hopkins University, is essential to “effectively spotting and responding to these threats as it gives a trans-sectoral and multidisciplinary approach to recognizing and giving response to public health threats.”

One health calls for global action in coping with the world’s complex diseases, such as Disease X in relation to organizations that deal with agriculture, food, human, environmental, and animal health.


The blog shares information on the Disease X pandemic. However, researchers are still exploring this disease, i.e. detailed research is still pending. Furthermore, subscribe to Personal Care N Heal for the latest health-related blogs.

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