What is Disease X? Experts say most people will see another pandemic this lifetime

Thomas Rawson, epidemiology research associate at the Abdul Latif Jameel Institute for Disease and Emergency Analytics at Imperial College London (Jameel Institute) speaks with Al Arabiya English about 'Disease X', the next global pandemic that researchers warn could be more fatal than COVID-19.

Thomas explains, "Pandemics are becoming more and more likely. As human populations grow, and with it our interactions with animal disease sources, so too grows the risk of a novel pathogen emerging. It is likely that many of us will be personally affected by another global pandemic in our lifetimes. It’s important, therefore, for the world to be ready – not just with treatments, vaccinations, messaging, stockpiled resources, individuals with the necessary skill sets and healthy populations to begin with (e.g. those with no obesity, underlying disease, and so on), but also with the ability to scale up responses and act quickly."

He continues, "Research funded by philanthropic foundations like Community Jameel is crucial to unlocking all the lessons from the last pandemic, and other disease outbreaks, to improve our response to future threats. Within Imperial, we’ve been undertaking retrospective analyses to answer questions like how to best apply and use limited vaccine stockpiles; how to quantify the real-world impact of different intervention methods; how different communities and sub-populations were affected differently during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how we can better protect these communities in future."


Most people on the planet will witness another pandemic like COVID-19 in their lifetime, according to leading infectious disease experts, as they warn the world is still ill-equipped to deal with the looming threat of ‘Disease X’ – an unknown pathogen with the potential to spread rapidly around the globe.

The World Health Organization (WHO) coined the term ‘Disease X’ in 2018 to refer to a currently unknown infectious disease capable of causing a serious international epidemic. Global experts say the next pandemic is looming, and Disease X serves as a reminder that the next pandemic could be started by a pathogen currently unknown to science.

By this definition, COVID-19 – the pandemic that brought global economies to their knees, claimed millions of lives, and exposed global weaknesses in pandemic preparedness – was the first ‘Disease X’ event.

Alarabiya English