Doctor who helped discover Ebola warns of new fatal infection called ‘Disease X’


A doctor who helped discover the Ebola virus disease has warned that many dangerous diseases are on the verge of spreading which could be as transmitted as rapidly as the coronavirus and be as deadly as the Ebola virus. Professor Jean-Jacques Muyembe Tamfum from Congo spoke with CNN recently and revealed how a number of new viruses are being expected to come to light in an act which he describes as “a threat for humanity”. The microbiologist who helped discover the Ebola virus in 1976, says these viruses emerging from the tropical forests of Africa could rapidly spread and soon grow deadly for the human population.

 Doctor who helped discover Ebola warns of new fatal infection called Disease X

The Third Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize winners, Francis Gervase Omaswa of Uganda (L) and Jean-Jacques Muyembe-Tamfum of Congo (2nd R) are greeted by Japan’s Emperor Naruhito (2nd L) and Empress Masako (R) at the end of the awards ceremony in Tokyo on August 30, 2019 on the sidelines of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD). Image credit: Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP

“We are now in a world where new pathogens will come out,” he further told the publication. He also said that he thinks that any new disease could become more apocalyptic than COVID-19.

This scientific warning has been given after a woman from the Democratic Republic of the Congo has shown early symptoms of hemorrhagic fever. While she has been tested for Ebola, researchers fear if she is the patient zero of the hypothetical Disease X which spreads faster than COVID and has Ebola’s 50 to 90 per cent fatality rate.


According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), a Disease X is the possibility of an international epidemic that can spread from a pathogen unknown to humankind. The disease has been included in the list of priority diseases by the health body and experts opine that it is important we stay alert and fear the breakout of any new pathogen.

As seen in the case of the woman, where she tested negative for several other diseases with similar symptoms, Muyembe expects many more zoonotic diseases to come out in the future.

Zoonotic diseases like yellow fever, rabies, brucellosis and Lyme disease spread from animals to human beings and have caused epidemics and pandemics before. While the deadly HIV emerged from a type of Chimpanzee and then mutated into a fatal disease, SARS-CoV-2, along with SARS, and MERS are all coronaviruses that have suddenly jumped from animals to humans.

So the scary possibility of many more such zoonotic diseases attacking humanity is a valid one.