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WHO says it’s trying to identify pathogens that could cause new pandemic

The World Health Organization says it is thrashing out a new list of priority pathogens that risk sparking pandemics or outbreaks and need to be kept under close observation.

The WHO says the aim was to update a list used to guide global research and development (R&D) and investment, especially in vaccines, tests and treatments.

As part of that process, which started on Friday, the United Nations health agency is convening over 300 scientists to consider evidence on more than 25 virus families and bacteria.

They will also consider the so-called “Disease X” — an unknown pathogen that could cause a serious international epidemic.

“Targeting priority pathogens and virus families for research and development of countermeasures is essential for a fast and effective epidemic and pandemic response,” says WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan.

“Without significant R&D investments prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, it would not have been possible to have safe and effective vaccines developed in record time.”

The list was first published in 2017.

It currently includes COVID-19, Ebola virus disease and Marburg virus disease, Lassa fever, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Nipah, Zika and Disease X.

The revised list is expected to be published before April 2023.

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