World Health Organization gets ready for 'Disease X'

The World Health Organization (WHO) has added "Disease X" to its latest global plan for accelerating research and development during health emergencies.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has added "Disease X" to its latest global plan for accelerating research and development during health emergencies. According to the WHO, "Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease." The <a href="http://www.who.int/blueprint/priority-diseases/en/&quot; target="_blank">2018 R&D Blueprint</a>, published last month, also includes seven other potential global disease threats, each without an effective drug or vaccine. In addition to Disease X, the list includes: Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever; Ebola virus disease and Marburg virus disease; Lassa fever; Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome; Nipah and henipaviral diseases Rift Valley fever; and Zika. Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, explained that "X" stands for unexpected. When faced with the unknown, the WHO knows it must move quickly and that this involves creating platform technologies, Fauci said. Researchers essentially create customizable recipes for developing vaccines, so when an outbreak occurs, they can sequence the unique genetics of the virus and plug the correct sequence into the waiting platform to create a new vaccine. To develop these platforms, Fauci said, researchers must first study entire classes of viruses. "If you develop an understanding of the commonalities of those, you can respond more rapidly," he said.