The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a global network of laboratories called CoViNet to identify and monitor potentially novel coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2 and MERS-CoV, with enhanced laboratory capacity.

Key highlights:

  • CoViNet builds upon the earlier collaboration with the WHO COVID-19 reference laboratory network and now includes animal health and environmental surveillance to provide timely risk assessment for WHO policies and protective measures.
  • CoViNet will support the building of more laboratories in low- and middle-income countries to monitor MERS-CoV and other novel coronaviruses of public health importance.

Global Network: 

CoViNet comprises 36 laboratories from 21 countries in all six WHO regions, including three Indian laboratories: Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Indian Council of Medical Research-National Institute of Virology in Pune, and Translational Health Science and Technology Institute.

‘Disease X’

“Disease X” is a term used by the WHO to describe a hypothetical, yet unknown, infectious disease that could potentially cause a future pandemic. Initially, Covid-19 was termed as disease X.

The concept was introduced to highlight the need for preparedness and research into emerging infectious diseases that may pose significant global health 


  • Representatives of the laboratories finalized an action plan for 2024-2025 during a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, to respond to health challenges brought on by novel coronaviruses.
  • Virus sequencing and data gathered through CoViNet will guide WHO’s Technical Advisory Groups on Viral Evolution and the expert advisory group on COVID-19 vaccine composition.

Coronavirus Variants and Lethal Strains: 

Some coronaviruses commonly cause mild illnesses such as the common cold with names like OC43 and HKU1, having seasonal peaks in winter. On the contrary, three coronaviruses turned out to be lethal; SARS-CoV in 2002, MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in 2012 and SARS-CoV-2, which  caused the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

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