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Scientists start work on WHO priority pathogen list revisions

The World Health Organization (WHO) today announced the launch of a global scientific effort to update the list of priority pathogens, a list used to guide investments and research, especially for vaccines and treatments.

It said the process began on Nov 18 with a meeting of more than 300 scientists, who are examining evidence on 25 virus families and bacteria, as well as “Disease X,” an unknown pathogen that could cause a serious international epidemic. The group will consider scientific criteria, as well as the potential socioeconomic, access, and equity impact.

The WHO published its first priority pathogen list in 2017, with the last assessment done in 2018. In the past few years, the WHO has also posted priority pathogen lists for antibiotic-resistant and fungal organisms.

Mike Ryan, MD, who heads the WHO’s health emergencies program, said, “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 WHO said it expects to publish the revised priority pathogen list in the first quarter of 2023.

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