Disease X

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Last reviewed
October 2, 2023
Content Overview
Disease X may be caused by a zoonosis pathogen or an RNA virus.

Disease X

Disease X is supposed to be caused by a "pathogen X" that is expected to be a zoonosis, disease, or infection that can be transmitted between humans and animals, most likely an RNA virus, wrote Richard Hatchett, chief executive officer of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). CEPI's $3.5 billion, 5-year plan lays out a $3.5 billion roadmap to compress vaccine development timelines to 100 days.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease. Based on the announcement of the WHO in 2020, COVID-19, caused by an unknown etiology, should be recognized as the first Disease X. A One Health approach has also been proposed that provides a complete way to address the underlying issues for the spread of Disease X.

To prepare for future public health emergencies caused by infectious diseases, the U.S. National Institutes of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) developed a Pandemic Preparedness Plan, last updated in 2022. While it is recognized that pathogens other than viruses could lead to public health emergencies, the NIAID Pandemic Preparedness Plan focuses on viruses that could cause epidemics or pandemics.

Disease X - Project NextGen News

September 28, 2023 – ModeX Therapeutics Inc. was awarded a contract of up to $168 Million from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to advance a platform and specific candidates designed to address a range of public health threats in viral infectious diseases.

September 26, 2023 - The U.K. Health Security Agency agreed to an advance purchase agreement with CSL Seqirus to be on standby to produce over 100 million influenza pandemic vaccines if or when needed.

September 22, 2023 - The U.S. CDC announced the recipients of 13 funding awards to establish a first-of-its-kind national network, the Outbreak Analytics and Disease Modeling Network (OADMN). The awards, totaling $262.5 million in funding over five years, will support state and local decision-makers in developing and implementing new tools to detect, respond to, and mitigate public health emergencies more effectively.

September 19, 2023 - The CEPI and Bio Farma have entered a 10-year partnership to boost the rapid manufacturing of outbreak vaccines at Indonesia's leading vaccine manufacturer. The collaboration will help to bring cutting-edge mRNA and viral vector rapid response vaccine manufacturing technologies to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region and reserve manufacturing capacity to supply Global South countries during future outbreaks and pandemics to combat the type of devastating inequity witnessed during the recent pandemic.

Disease X History

ICON plc announced on September 13, 2023, that it is partnering with the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (contract number 75A50120D00017) to execute a clinical trial to evaluate the effectiveness of next-generation COVID-19 vaccine candidates. This trial is part of Project NextGen.

On September 1, 2023, CEPI and the International Vaccine Institute announced a renewed collaboration to accelerate the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases and unknown pathogens (Disease X). EcoHealth Alliance says there are about 1.67 million unknown viruses on Earth, and over 631,000 can infect people. Scientists currently know of only 263 viruses that can infect people, meaning we know almost nothing about 99% of potential pandemic threats for a Disease X Event.

A U.S. project (DEEP VZN) seeking viruses among wildlife in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America to prevent human pandemics was discontinued by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), according to the BMJ, in September 2023.

In November 2020, the U.S. HHS Secretary issued a Declaration under section 319F-3 of the Public Health Service Act (PREP Act) to provide limited immunity for activities related to countermeasures against marburgvirus and Marburg disease.

In 1976, William H. McNeill published a book that took a new approach to disease history. Plagues and Peoples showed a pattern of what he called "fateful encounters" between infectious diseases and world events. President Obama awarded McNeill a 2009 National Humanities Medal.