Introduction: The World Health Organization (WHO)'s Research and Development (R&D) Blueprint for Action to Prevent Epidemics, a plan of action, highlighted several infectious diseases as crucial targets for prevention. These infections were selected based on a thorough assessment of factors such as transmissibility, infectivity, severity, and evolutionary potential. In line with this blueprint, the VACCELERATE Site Network approached infectious disease experts to rank the diseases listed in the WHO R&D Blueprint according to their perceived risk of triggering a pandemic. VACCELERATE is an EU-funded collaborative European network of clinical trial sites, established to respond to emerging pandemics and enhance vaccine development capabilities.
Methods: Between February and June 2023, a survey was conducted using an online form to collect data from members of the VACCELERATE Site Network and infectious disease experts worldwide. Participants were asked to rank various pathogens based on their perceived risk of causing a pandemic, including those listed in the WHO R&D Blueprint and additional pathogens.
Results: A total of 187 responses were obtained from infectious disease experts representing 57 countries, with Germany, Spain, and Italy providing the highest number of replies. Influenza viruses received the highest rankings among the pathogens, with 79 % of participants including them in their top rankings. Disease X, SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV, and Ebola virus were also ranked highly. Hantavirus, Lassa virus, Nipah virus, and henipavirus were among the bottom-ranked pathogens in terms of pandemic potential.
Conclusion: Influenza, SARS-CoV, SARS-CoV-2, and Ebola virus were found to be the most concerning pathogens with pandemic potential, characterised by transmissibility through respiratory droplets and a reported history of epidemic or pandemic outbreaks.
Keywords: Disease X; Ebola virus; Infectious disease; Influenza viruses; Pandemic; SARS-CoV; SARS-CoV-2; WHO R&D Blueprint for action to prevent epidemics.
Copyright © 2023 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.