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WHO closing in on future pandemics, vectors

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THE World Health Organisation (WHO) is launching a global scientific process to update the list of priority pathogens—agents that can cause outbreaks or pandemics—to guide global investment, research and development (R&D) especially in vaccines, tests and treatments.

Starting with a meeting held last weekend, WHO is convening over 300 scientists who will consider the evidence on over 25 virus families and bacteria, as well as “Disease X.”

By the label “Disease X” the global health agency included an unknown pathogen that could cause a serious international epidemic and charged its experts to recommend a list of priority pathogens that need further research and investment. Explaining that “the list was first published in 2017 and the last prioritisation exercise was done in 2018 while current list includes COVID-19, Crimean-Cong haemorrhagic fever, Ebola virus disease and Marburg virus disease, Lassa fever, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Nipah and henipaviral diseases, Rift Valley fever, Zika and Disease X, WHO said “The process will include both scientific and public health criteria, as well as criteria related to socioeconomic impact, access, and equity.”

According to Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, Dr. Michael Ryan, this list of priority pathogens has become a reference point for the research community on where to focus energies to manage the next threat.

The revised list is expected to be published in the first quarter of 2023.

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