As the world warms, many glaciers will begin to melt, releasing material that has been trapped in the ice for years. These include microorganisms that have been dormant for hundreds of years in some cases.
To study the virus, scientists have now revived several of the “zombie viruses” from the Siberian permafrost, including one that is thought to be about 50,000 years old – the age known for a virus returning from the cold to infect other species.
The team working on the project, led by the biologist Jean-Marie Alempic from the French National Center for Scientific Research, says that these viruses are very dangerous for human health, and further research should be done to assess the risks of these drugs. It can be seen when they wake up from their frozen sleep.
“A quarter of the Northern Hemisphere is covered by permafrost,” the researchers wrote in their journal.
“Due to global warming, the irreversible melting of permafrost is releasing material stored in the freezer for millions of years, much of which decomposes into carbon dioxide and methane, further increasing global warming.”
The 48,500-year-old amoeba is actually one of 13 described in a new study published earlier, and nine of them are thought to be tens of thousands of years old. The researchers concluded that each was different from all other known viruses in terms of their genomes.
While this virus was found under the sea, other sources of extraction included mammoth fur and the intestines of a Siberian wolf – both buried under permafrost. Using single cell amoeba cultures, the team confirmed that viruses still have the potential to become pathogens.
We are also seeing more and more bacteria being released into the environment as the world warms, but given the antibiotics we have at our disposal we can say they are not dangerous. A new virus – like SARS-CoV-2 – can be a serious threat to public health, especially as the Arctic becomes more populated.
The researchers wrote: “It would be very dangerous if disease in plants, animals, or people was caused by the resurgence of an unknown virus.”
“Therefore it is necessary to reflect on the danger that small particles of the pathogen remain infected and resume the spread and melting of the old layers of permafrost.”
The group has a rapid virus research profile in Siberia, with previous research detailing the presence of the virus for 30,000 years. As a new host, that was also the pandoravirus, a giant to be seen using a microscope.
The revived monster has been given a name Pandoraviruswhich agrees with the size and type of frost-free soil in which it was found. The researchers think that there are more viruses to be discovered, than those that only fight amoeba.
Many of the viruses that will be released when the ice melts will be unknown to us – although it appears that these viruses will be transmitted when exposed to light, heat and air. These are all areas that could be explored in future studies.
Virologist Eric Delwart of the University of California, San Francisco, he admits that these giant viruses are just the beginning of exploring what is hidden beneath the permafrost. Even Delwart did not participate in the research, they have information on reviving ancient plant viruses.
“If the authors are isolating live viruses from ancient permafrost, it’s possible that small, simple animal viruses could also have been frozen for many years,” Delwart said. The New Scientist.
This study has not been peer-reviewed but is available on bioRxiv.