Disease X

Virologist and broadcaster Dr Chris van Tulleken will set out to uncover where Disease X could come from and what can be done to prevent it.

Director: Emeka Onono 

Executive Producers: Craig Hunter and Joe Sharp 

Production Executive: Paul McCaffery 

Production Company: STV Studios Factual 

Presenter: Dr Chris van Tulleken 

Broadcaster: BBC Two 

Screen Scotland support: The film accessed £100,000 through Screen Scotland’s Broadcast Content Fund


‘Disease X’ is the name the World Health Organisation gives to the yet-to-be discovered virus most likely to cause the next pandemic. We don’t know what it is. What it looks like. How it will spread. But many believe it has the potential to be bigger and deadlier than Covid-19 or anything else we’ve seen before.  

Every pandemic in modern times has come from a Disease X or a novel strain of flu. Covid-19 is the most recent example, but it wasn’t the first and it won’t be the last. Our only defence is to try to get ahead of it, and identify where it will come from and what it will be – before it's too late. 

With millions of undiscovered viruses currently present in the world, this Horizon Special will follow Dr Chris as he travels the globe to meet the scientists racing to prevent the next pandemic. During his high-stakes investigation, Chris will speak to leading experts in the fields of virology, epidemiology, vaccinology and public policy around the world. He’ll examine why new viruses are emerging at an increased rate, reveal the hotspots where they’re most likely to appear, and profile the most concerning new disease outbreaks. 

There is hope: Dr Chris will also meet the pioneering teams who, since the Covid-19 pandemic, have continued their work on the science of preparedness and prevention. He’ll visit their cutting-edge research labs and outbreak monitoring facilities in the UK and abroad and shine a light on their tireless work to keep us all safe. 

More information

Disease X, a 1 x 60' film for BBC Two and iPlayer, is made by STV Studios Factual – the team behind BBC Two documentary, Unvaccinated – and co-produced by The Open University, with support from Screen Scotland. It was commissioned by Jack Bootle, Head of Commissioning, Specialist Factual for BBC Two and iPlayer, and the Commissioning Editor is Tom Coveney, Head of Commissioning, Science.