Assessing the epidemic threat of viruses – candidates for the next pandemic

The emerging infectious disease research community is devoting a lot of effort towards attempts to identify pathogens with epidemic or even pandemic potential. Two recent, high profile outputs of these efforts are the WHO’s list of ten priority pathogens [1] and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)’s list of three [2].

To take CEPI’s list first, CEPI identified Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), Lassa and Nipah viruses as priorities for vaccine development, the aim being to create a fund to support this activity. These three viruses all appear on WHO’s list as well, along with Crimean Congo Haemorrhagic fever, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Rift Valley fever, severe fever with thrombocytopenia (STFS) and Zika viruses, plus the filovirus group (which includes Ebolavirus). Here, the aim is to identify pathogens that pose a significant public health risk but lack effective countermeasures in order to encourage research and development to address this deficiency. The alert reader will have noticed that I listed only nine pathogens, not ten – we will return to the tenth one later.

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