The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday launched a group to study the origins of new pathogens, including SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Members of the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO) are experts in epidemiology, animal health, clinical medicine, virology and genomics.
Made up of 26 scientists from several countries, members were selected from over 700 applications following a global call by the world health body.
WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said SAGO will advise on “the development of a global framework to define and guide studies into the origins of emerging and re-emerging pathogens with epidemic and pandemic potential, including SARS-CoV-2.”
Mr Ghebreyesus said while SARS-CoV-2 is the latest virus with the potential to spark epidemics and pandemics, “it will not be the last.”
WHO Technical Lead on COVID-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, said the world must be better prepared for any future “Disease X”.
She anticipated that SAGO will recommend further studies in China, and potentially elsewhere, to understand the origins of the new coronavirus.
While SAGO will advise WHO, any future missions will be organised by the UN agency and the country in question.
“I want to make it very clear that the SAGO is not the next mission team. There’s been some misrepresentation about that going forward,” she said.
A two-week public consultation period will take place for WHO to receive feedback on the proposed SAGO members.