The coronavirus outbreak is "rapidly becoming" the first pandemic to fit the "Disease X" category identifying a theoretical new pathogen that could cause a "serious international epidemic," according to a World Health Organization expert.
"Whether it will be contained or not," Marion Koopmans, a viroscience professor at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Netherlands and a WHO advisor, wrote in the journal Cell, the coronavirus "outbreak is rapidly becoming the first true pandemic challenge that fits the disease X category, listed to the WHO's priority list of diseases for which we need to prepare in our current globalized society."
According to the WHO, "Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease."
Koopmans notes that "unfortunately, as in past outbreaks, key knowledge gaps and medical countermeasures need to be assessed on the fly, and scientists and public health experts alike are wasting precious time writing grant applications to do what we long know needs to be done but which is not part of routine investment in science and (global) public health preparedness."
She adds, "Time will tell whether the consolidated efforts of the Chinese authorities and the international public health and research community will succeed. But we also need to understand how we make this model of preparedness future-proof."
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