Here's What's Likely to Cause the Next Pandemic (2023)

Here's What's Likely to Cause the Next Pandemic (1)

At the opening of HBOThe last of us, a couple of scientists on a talk show in the 1960s discuss the possibility of a fungal pandemic devastating humanity. Not only does this set the tone for the show, it also makes you wonder if something like this could really happen. The answer: no. At least not now. However, it is a possibility in the future.


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It got me thinking about what kind of infection is most likely to devastate humanity and destroy our way of life in the coming years. The contenders: bacteria, viruses and fungi. Each has an impressive kill record and their own strengths and weaknesses. This is how they compare.

The case of a fungal pandemic

Yeast infections are generally irritating. The most common examples in the US - tinea, nail infections, yeast infections and candidiasis - are easily treatable with common medications and are usually cured within a few weeks. But some types of yeast infections are more serious. Illnesses like fungal meningitis and bloodstream infections, while not common, are potentially life-threatening, especially for those with compromised immune systems. And the appearance of new types of fungal infections in the future is quite possible.


How fungal infections spread

Mild yeast infections tend to spread from person to person through direct contact and through contact with fungus in damp areas - that's why you get athlete's foot at the gym - but fungus doesn't spread the same way that viral infections do and bacterial. Infected people do not exude clouds of spores that others inhale.become clickers. While we definitely breathetonof mold spores all the time, they are virtually harmless to most of us.

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Here's What's Likely to Cause the Next Pandemic (2)

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Rather than person-to-person spread, fungal disease outbreaks occur when people inhale a common source of fungal spores. For example, soil in the southwestern United States and parts of Mexico and Central and South America is allied with the fungus that causes valley fever. Most people who inhale valley fever spores do not get sick, and if they do, they will have a cough that goes away within a few weeks. But for the elderly, babies and other vulnerable people, it can be a serious condition.

But all that can change at any time. Most pathogenic fungi cannot handle the heat in our bodies and this protects us, butsome research suggestsThese pathogens evolve as our planet warms, and our body heat may not be enough to ward them off forever. Fortunately, mold spores are much larger than viruses, so it wouldn't be a problem if everyone wore masks. I'm sure there would be no problemO.


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The bottom line:A fungal disease apocalypse is unlikely in the near future, but it's something to keep an eye on.

The case of a bacterial pandemic

Bacterial infections are the OGs of deadly disease outbreaks around the world. Cholera, anthrax, tuberculosis and a host of other catastrophic diseases are caused by bacteria, including the bubonic plague, responsible for 13% of the population killed.


How bacterial infections spread

Bacteria can travel well and aregeneral. While the vast majority of bacteria just do their thing and don't harm us, deadly bacteria get to us through air, water, food, surface contact, animals, and probably our bad thoughts.


This is the bad news. The good news is that most bacterial infections can be cured with antibiotics. The first antibiotic, penicillin, was introduced in the 1920s and led to many others being used to treat bacterial illnesses. Once major health problems like syphilis disappeared thanks to antibiotics. If you're unlucky enough to catch the Black Death in 2023 (the US averages seven cases a year), as long as you're treated with antibiotics, you'll probably be fine and have a cool story to tell. Even a deadly disease like anthrax has a 55% survival rate if treated. But of course that's not the end of the story.

Over time, antibiotics became less effective. Bacteria have evolved to become resistant to known antibiotics, likely because they are overprescribed to humans and livestock, leading to a resurgence of some diseases, such as tuberculosis, as well as "superbugs" that appear to be immune to all antimicrobials. In the United States, about 35,000 people die each year from antibiotic-resistant infections, and that number is likely to increase over time.


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The bottom line:Don't underestimate the chances of an antibiotic-resistant superbug wiping out humanity.

The case of a virus pandemic

The effects of a virus causing a deadly disease that is spreading through humanity are all around us all the time, so I won't elaborate further except to point out why viruses are so insidious. Unlike bacteria or fungi, viruses are not alive, at least not in the sense that other organisms are alive. Since they're not alive, it's harder for us to make them dead (even if only technically). Antibiotics essentially work by attacking the cell walls of bacteria, blocking protein production and stopping reproduction. Viruses hijack our own cells to replicate, so we can't attack them the way bacteria can.


How viruses spread

Viruses spread in the same way as bacteria, and common viral infections even mimic the symptoms of bacterial infections (hence the overuse of antibiotics). In addition to being immune to antibiotics, viruses are 100 times smaller than bacteria, so they spread more easily – and they evolve faster too.


Technically, they may not be alive, but viruses are still going through the evolutionary processes of natural selection and genetic mutation, and doing so in new ways. Because of this, the flu vaccine changes every year. In addition to the common types of mutations, there's one more fun thing they can do: when two viruses infect the same cell, it's believed they can exchange genetic material and create a new virus.

However, there is good news. The only human disease that we completely eliminated, smallpox, was caused by a virus, and other once terrible viral diseases - polio, measles, tetanus, etc. - are uncommon. The white knights in all these cases were vaccines. We may have trouble attacking viruses directly, but vaccines can "teach" our immune system to do the job and thus prevent infection and spread as long as enough people actually get the vaccines, but I'm sure that It's not the case. it will be a problem.


So what will cause the next pandemic to kill us all?

Judging by the speed of development and implementation of the COVID-19 vaccine, I'm happy to believe that 100 years from now, viral infections will be less of an issue - if we can make it. But in the immediate future, more global viral pandemics are almost inevitable. So if I had to put my money on the disease that's going to kill us all, I'd say it's caused by a virus.


What is most likely to cause the next pandemic? ›

Five virus families that could cause the next pandemic
  1. Coronaviridae. COVID-19, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), severe acquired respiratory syndrome (SARS) ...
  2. Flaviviridae. Dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, Zika, West Nile fever. ...
  3. Orthomyxoviridae. Influenza. ...
  4. Paramyxoviridae. ...
  5. Togaviridae (alphaviruses)
Sep 7, 2022

Is the pandemic coming to an end? ›

Public health officials agree that the end of the pandemic is in sight but not here yet.

How do we prepare for the next pandemic? ›

Prepare vaccines for rapid production

If vaccines are ready in advance, they can be quickly deployed when threats emerge to help contain the spread. For pathogens with known pandemic potential, such as influenza, governments should invest in vaccines that can protect against a wide variety of variants.

What is the pandemic outlook for 2022? ›

The analysis showed that the COVID-19 pandemic could terminate in 2022, but COVID-19 could be one or two times more deadly than seasonal influenza by 2023. The prediction considered the possibility of the emergence of new variants of SARS-CoV-2 and was supported by the features of the Omicron variant and other facts.

Will we have more pandemics? ›

Despite huge scientific and medical advances, the potential for diseases to spread is actually increasing, and the risk of outbreaks escalating into epidemics or pandemics. Several factors do play role for the increase in frequency and coverage of pandemics.

How do pandemics start? ›

Historically, pandemics were most commonly associated with environmental exposures such as raw sewage, according to Jay Purdy, MD, PhD, vice president and therapeutic area lead in anti-infectives in the department of Global Medical Affairs at Pfizer.

Is COVID becoming endemic? ›

Researchers used rats to gather data on COVID-19 reinfection rates and then modeled the virus' potential trajectory. They found that as vaccination and infection combine to facilitate widespread immunity, the virus could become endemic in the U.S. about four years after the pandemic began in March 2020.

Will COVID ever go away 2022? ›

It probably won't ever disappear, but it can be something we can manage going forward.” Amesh Adalja: “Universal vaccines, better antivirals, new monoclonal antibodies, handling COVID like other respiratory viruses.”

How can we prevent pandemics in the future? ›

Reduced deforestation, better management of wildlife trade and hunting, and better surveillance of zoonotic pathogens before they spill into human populations are all key strategies that could help prevent future pandemics, according to a new report.

What are the things you do to survive this pandemic? ›

Stay home as much as possible. Even if you're not in an area with a shelter in place order, one of the best answers to how to avoid viruses is simply to stay put. When you stay home, you're not giving viruses the chance to enter the body. Get plenty of fresh air and sunlight into your home.

What should we do during this pandemic? ›

Stay at home if you are sick, except to receive urgent medical care. Keep your home neat and orderly by practicing regular cleaning and disinfecting, which both help prevent infection. Regularly clean frequently-touched surfaces, like tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

Will there be another surge of Covid? ›

Health officials encourage COVID-19 prevention measures

"We do expect further waves of infection around the world, but that doesn't have to translate into further waves of death because our countermeasures continue to work," Kerkhove said.

What does it mean from pandemic to endemic? ›

Pandemics are known to cause widespread disruption, illness and hardship as we have experienced since 2020. An endemic means a disease is spreading in a community at the normal or expected level. A pandemic begins to shift to an endemic once the disease becomes more stable and manageable.

Will Covid permanently change the world? ›

COVID-19 will leave a lasting imprint on the world economy, causing permanent changes and teaching important lessons. Virus screening is likely to become part of our life, just like security measures became ubiquitous after 9/11.

What is the likelihood of a pandemic? ›

The researchers found that the probability of a pandemic with a similar impact to COVID-19 is about 2% in any year. This means that the probability of experiencing a pandemic similar to COVID-19 in one's lifetime is about 38%.

What is the Future of pandemics? ›

Coronavirus will not be the last pandemic in our lifetime. Scientists warn the threat posed by zoonoses – infectious diseases that jump from animals to humans – is on the rise. And the risk of a new pandemic is higher now than ever before.

Are humans the cause of pandemics? ›

It is actions by humans which simultaneously threaten species survival and increase the risk of spillover.

How long does COVID last? ›

Most people with COVID-19 get better within a few days to a few weeks after infection, so at least four weeks after infection is the start of when post-COVID conditions could first be identified. Anyone who was infected can experience post-COVID conditions.

When did the last pandemic occur? ›

The influenza pandemic of 1918–19, also called the Spanish flu, lasted between one and two years. The pandemic occurred in three waves, though not simultaneously around the globe.

How many times can you get COVID? ›

Can you get Covid-19 twice? Yes, it is possible to get Covid-19 two, three or even more times. Covid reinfections have become more common because of the Omicron variant, and because immunity from previous infection and immunisation has reduced over time.

What is an example of endemic disease? ›

What does Endemic mean? A disease outbreak is endemic when it is consistently present but limited to a particular region. This makes the disease spread and rates predictable. Malaria, for example, is considered endemic in certain countries and regions.

Will COVID go away without treatment? ›

Most people who become sick with COVID-19 will only have mild illness and can get better at home. Symptoms might last a few days. People who have the virus might feel better in about a week.

What other viruses could cause a pandemic? ›

Some of them already had a couple of outbreaks in these Covid years. Viruses like Ebola, SARS, Marburg, Monkeypox and Zika listed below are just a small portion of possible epidemic-prone viruses that could lead to the next pandemic.

How will Covid become endemic? ›

By developing immunity against COVID-19—either through natural infection with the virus or vaccination—it is predicted that the disease will eventually become endemic. When most of the population is immune to a virus, so-called herd immunity can be achieved.

When will Covid not be considered a pandemic? ›

But what is the difference between these two states of disease spread and what does this change mean for our lives? Many experts say that COVID will likely lose its “pandemic” status sometime in 2022, due largely to rising global vaccination rates the widespread, less lethal, infection with the Omicron variant.

What virus mimics COVID? ›

Coronavirus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are two kinds of respiratory illnesses that have some similar symptoms.

Which virus is responsible for the current pandemic *? ›

COVID-19 pandemic
DiseaseCoronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Virus strainSevere acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS‑CoV‑2)
SourceBats, likely indirectly
8 more rows

What is pandemic potential? ›

Potential pandemic pathogens (PPPs) are bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms that are likely highly transmissible and capable of wide, uncontrollable spread in human populations and highly virulent, making them likely to cause significant morbidity and/or mortality in humans.


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