Amid controversy and investigations about the origin of the coronavirus, it is the story of Nipah — and an encyclopedia of zoonotic diseases that includes rabies, West Nile, Ebola, HIV, MERS and SARS — that has led many scientists to argue that the most likely explanation is a natural spillover that occurred in the wild, not a leak from a lab.
This week, the World Health Organization unveiled an advisory group that will study the origins of the coronavirus and guide research to prepare the world against Disease X — shorthand for an unknown virus capable of causing human epidemics. Nipah, WHO officials wrote in the journal Science, was the Disease X of its time.
As much as 75 percent of new infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic, and spillover is happening with increasing frequency as a swelling human population comes into greater contact with wildlife and raises more livestock. That heightens the possibility of more frequent pandemics in the future, scientists say.