Disease X could be next big pandemic, kill 50 million people, says expert

Kate Bingham, who chaired the UK's Vaccine Taskforce from May to December 2020, stated that scientists have identified 25 virus families, any of which could mutate into a deadly pandemic

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BS Web Team New Delhi

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According to a UK health expert, Disease X could lead to another pandemic more lethal than Covid-19 and could claim at least 50 million lives, the Daily Mail reported. Earlier, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that Disease X represents an epidemic that could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease.

Kate Bingham, who chaired the UK's Vaccine Taskforce from May to December 2020, suggested that the new virus could have an impact similar to the devastating Spanish Flu of 1919–1920.

Bingham said, "Let me put it this way: the 1918–19 flu pandemic killed at least 50 million people worldwide, twice as many as were killed in the First World War. Today, we could expect a similar death toll from one of the many viruses that already exist."

She added that the world must prepare for mass vaccination campaigns and deliver doses in record time to neutralise the threat from Disease X. Bingham further explained that there are several viruses replicating and mutating more than all other life forms on the planet combined.

"Not all of them pose a threat to humans, of course, but plenty do," she told the Daily Mail.

Bingham also mentioned that scientists have identified 25 virus families, any of which could mutate into a deadly pandemic. Additionally, there could be more than one million undiscovered variants that may be able to jump from one species to another.

"The vast majority of people infected with Covid-19 have managed to recover," Bingham said. "Imagine Disease X being as infectious as measles with the fatality rate of Ebola, which is 67 per cent. Somewhere in the world, it's replicating, and sooner or later, someone will start feeling ill."

According to WHO, "Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease. The R&D Blueprint explicitly seeks to enable early cross-cutting R&D preparedness that is also relevant for an unknown 'Disease X'." This list was first published in 2017, and the order of prioritisation was carried out in 2018.

First Published: Sep 26 2023 | 6:18 PM IST

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