Why is WHO updating its ranking of the most dangerous pathogens?


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WHO specialists are preparing a new list of microorganisms that potentially cause diseases, as well as a draft interstate agreement on a pandemic. Let’s figure out why humanity needs this

New list of pathogens that cause disease

The World Health Organization announced on November 21, 2022 that it is developing a new list of priority pathogens (these are any microorganisms and the prion protein that can cause pathologies in other living beings), which should be closely monitored as they risk triggering pandemics or disease outbreaks. The WHO’s goal is to update the list , which is used in global research and development of vaccines, tests and treatments.

Why study pathogens

As part of the process to update the list of pathogens, WHO is convening more than 300 scientists to review data on several dozen families of viruses and bacteria. They will also study the so-called ” Disease X “. The code name hides an unknown pathogen that has the potential to cause a serious international epidemic. WHO Emergencies Director Michael Ryan notes : “Identifying priority pathogens and virus families for research and development of countermeasures is essential for rapid and effective response to epidemics and pandemics. Without significant investment in R&D prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it would have been impossible to develop safe and effective vaccines in record time.”

What will happen after updating the list?

The list was first published in 2017. Currently it includes:

  • COVID-19;
  • Ebola and Marburg viral diseases;
  • Lassa fever;
  • Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS);
  • severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS);
  • Nipah and Zika viruses;

disease X.

For each pathogen identified as a priority, experts will identify gaps in knowledge and highlight key areas for further research. The necessary specifications for vaccines, treatments and diagnostic tests can then be developed . The revised list is expected to be published before April 2023.

Why do we need a pandemic treaty?

The pathogen meetings come as the WHO prepares for the next round of pandemic treaty negotiations. They involve expert scientists, representatives of WHO, states, medical NGOs and non-profit organizations. The intergovernmental body is paving the way for a global agreement that could govern how countries prepare for and respond to future threats.

From 5 to 7 December 2022, the third meeting to develop and agree on a draft WHO convention on pandemic preparedness and response was held in Geneva. A progress report will be presented to WHO member states next year, with the final result presented for review in 2024.


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