Doctors and relatives wearing protective gear carry the body of a victim, who lost his battle against the brain-damaging Nipah virus, during his funeral at a burial ground in Kozhikode, in the southern Indian state of Kerala, India, May 24, 2018.Reuters

Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) had warned that a hypothesized illness, which they named 'Disease X', could pose potential risks for life. WHO also added that studies on this disease should be the top priority among medical experts, as its outbreak may claim millions of lives in all nooks of the globe.

Asia and Africa under the scanner

As researchers are on the hunt for this currently unknown disease, Marc Valitutto, a wildlife vet with Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute's Global Health Program has shockingly revealed that the major outbreak of 'Disease X' may most likely happen either in Asia or Africa. As per Valitutto, Asia and Africa are more prone to the outbreak as humans are rapidly destroying the environment in these two continents.

"Our goal is to look for a pandemic virus, a virus that has the potential to have high mortality. We are seeing once pristine forests under threat for increased development, which brings wildlife in these areas in close contact with humans. Our concern is that if you use the forest for roads and agriculture you disrupt the ecosystem. Animals will leave the forest and be exposed to humans," said Marc Valitutto, reports.

It should be noted that most of the virus outbreaks usually happens when humans come in close contact with animals like bats. Researchers had found that the 2002 outbreak of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) is connected to a colony of cave-dwelling horseshoe bats in China's Yunnan province. The 2018 Nipah virus outbreak which happened in Kerala, India was also traced to fruit bats in the area.

Disease X: A potential global threat

Every year, experts at the Wworld Health Organization used to create the list of most likely diseases that have the potential to break out into a worldwide pandemic. In 2018, 'Disease X' found its place in this list along with Ebola, SARS and Zika.

As per experts in WHO, 'Disease X' may emerge as a global threat that could kill millions. Medical experts believe that this unknown pathogen may most likely go unnoticed until it gets spread to all nooks and corners of the globe, taking the entire planet by surprise.

"Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease, and so the R&D Blueprint explicitly seeks to enable cross-cutting R&D preparedness that is also relevant for an unknown 'Disease X' as far as possible," said WHO in a statement.

Apart from natural causes, experts believe that 'Disease X' could also spread due to manmade factors. Experts argue that the use of chemical weapons as an act of terror may also introduce the unknown pathogen to the humankind.