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Clinical Insider
Clinical Insider

Influenza highest pandemic risk according to EU clinical research network

Posted by on 22 April 2024
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According to a survey by the Vaccelerate Consortium, most experts predict an influenza virus to be the cause of the next pandemic.

The consortium – an EU clinical research network tasked with accelerating vaccination programs – which will present the survey at upcoming ESCMID Global Congress, said 57% of the infectious diseases experts who took part ranked influenza as the “pathogen of highest pandemic risk.”

After influenza, respondents ranked disease X, SARS-CoV-1, SARS-CoV-2 and Ebola as the next most worrisome pathogens in terms of the ability to cause a pandemic. Most of those who took part cited transmissibility and history of previous epidemic or pandemic outbreaks as the big risk factors.

Lead author Salmanton-García underlined the challenge posed by influenza viruses, which are highly variable and circulate easily.

“Each winter we have an influenza season. One could say that this means that every winter there are little pandemics. They are more or less controlled because the different strains are not virulent enough.

“Yet, every season the strains involved change, that is the reason why we can get influenza several times in life and vaccines change year to year. In case a new strain becomes more virulent, this control could be lost.”

However, despite the risks posed by future influenza variants, Salmanton-García is optimistic that biopharma firms, contract research organizations (CROs), contract development manufacturing organizations (CDMOs), Governments regulators and patients will be better prepared for future pandemics than they were for SARS-CoV-2.

“In COVID-19 pandemic we have learned many things on how to approach a respiratory virus pandemic. This includes social distancing, hand cleaning, face masks, a renewed focus on vaccination, and trust in healthcare institutions. In parallel, institutions have also learnt a lot. Preparedness and surveillance are now, vitally, better-funded.”


The World Health Organization (WHO) has outlined an R&D “Blueprint for Action” to prevent epidemics. The idea is to focus on key infectious diseases that pose significant threats to public health.

Vaccelerate’s role was to ask infectious disease experts from around the world, both among and outside its members, to rank the diseases listed in terms of their perceived risk of instigating a pandemic.


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