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Pandemic Panic? Scientists Race to Thwart ‘Disease X’

via CBS
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British scientists at Porton Down are developing vaccines to combat potential future pandemics, referred to as “Disease X.”

The project aims to address high-risk pathogens, such as bird flu and monkeypox, which could lead to a crisis similar to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The scientists have already created a vaccine for Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever and are working on others.

Head of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), Professor Dame Jenny Harries said, “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,” she continued.

“Some of that is because of things like urbanisation where you may get virus jumping into humans [living close-by], as we’ve seen with bird flu,” explained Harries.

“And some of it is because of climate change where you get things like ticks and mosquitoes moving to where it was previously cold and is now becoming increasingly warm,” she added.

“So this is a growing risk agenda. But it’s one we can use our science actively to prevent human impact,” said Harries.

“It would normally take five or 10 years. For COVID it was around 360 days,” she explained.

“So this is a really high ambition. But for some viruses, it is definitely possible,” added Harries.

Factors like urbanization and climate change are increasing the likelihood of global pandemics.

The goal is to develop a new vaccine within 100 days of a pathogen’s emergence.

Additionally, the facility is involved in testing new strains of the Chinese coronavirus and houses dangerous viruses like ebola.

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