Health experts from across the globe are currently meeting to discuss a disease they fear could spark the “next pandemic”.

Officials have gathered at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, with one item on the agenda being how to tackle Disease X.

Disease X is actually a hypothetical illness, identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

It is used as a placeholder name for an unknown disease that has the potential to infect 20 times more people than the COVID-19 pandemic.

Others have said it could even be as infectious as measles with the fatality rate of Ebola.

According to the Evening Standard, scientists are concerned about the mystery disease and are already developing vaccines.

This is reportedly being carried out at the government’s Porton Down laboratory complex in Wiltshire, which is run by the UK Health and Security Agency’s (UKHSA) science and defence technology campus.

Former chair of the UK vaccine taskforce, Kate Bingham said: “In a sense, we got lucky with COVID-19, despite the fact that it caused 20 million or more deaths across the world. The point is that the vast majority of people infected with the virus managed to recover.”

Speaking to the Mail Online, she continued: “Imagine Disease X is as infectious as measles with the fatality rate of Ebola [67 percent].

“Somewhere in the world, it’s replicating and, sooner or later, somebody will start feeling sick.

“We need to take the first steps in dealing with the next pandemic right now – and that involves putting money on the table.”

What is Disease X?

As mentioned, Disease X is effectively a placeholder name for a very serious virus yet to come.

It is a currently unknown, yet serious microbial threat which may lead to a global pandemic.

The name was first coined by the WHO in 2018 and it has since been shortlisted as a disease of concern alongside viruses like SARS, Ebola and Zika.

But the WHO says Disease X only, “represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease”.

Last year, more than 200 scientists began work to create a vaccine at the Porton Down centre.

As well as starting work on a vaccine scientists have compiled a list of existing viruses in animals which could jump to the human population and spread.

In 2023, Professor Dame Jenny Harries – the head of the UKHSA, told Sky News: “What we’re trying to do here is ensure that we prepare so that if we have a new Disease X, a new pathogen, we have done as much of that work in advance as possible.

“Hopefully we can prevent it [a pandemic]. But if we can’t and we have to respond, then we have already started developing vaccines and therapeutics to crack it.”

The WHO believes Disease X is likely to first be detected in tropical, low or middle-income countries – especially those already impacted by climate change.

Countries worldwide have pledged £1.15 billion to help defend against Disease X.

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