Researchers that recovered nearly two dozen viruses, including one that was frozen under a lake more than 48,500 years ago, believe that the thawing of ancient permafrost caused by climate change may provide a new threat to people.
A brief about The European Scientists Revive 48500 Years Old ‘Zombie Virus’ Buried In the Ice:
Researchers from Europe analyzed prehistoric samples taken from permafrost in Russia’s Siberia. They discovered that 13 new diseases, which they resurrected and classified as “zombie viruses,” continued to be contagious despite spending many ages frozen on the earth.
The thawing of permafrost brought on by atmospheric warming has long been predicted by scientists to accelerate climate change by releasing methane and other previously contained greenhouse gases. Less is known about its impact on latent infections.
The team of scientists from France, Germany, and Russia said that because they focused on strains primarily able to infect amoeba microorganisms, the biological risk of reanimating viruses was “absolutely minimal.” They cautioned that their findings can be expanded to indicate the threat is genuine, saying that the possible rebirth of a virus that might infect humans or animals is considerably more problematic.
The researchers published their findings in a preprint article on the online server bioRxiv that hasn’t yet undergone peer review. “It is thus conceivable that ancient permafrost may release these unknown viruses upon thawing,” they said. It is currently impossible to predict how long these viruses might remain contagious after being exposed to outside circumstances or how probable it will be that they will come into contact with and infect a compatible host during that time. But they said that as a result of global warming, the risk would inevitably rise as permafrost thawing would continue to speed up and more people would move to the Arctic as a result of industrial endeavors.