A team of French scientists have revived a 48,500-year-old “zombie virus” buried under a frozen lake in Russia.
This zombie virus that have remained underground for thousands of years have since been revived due to being unfrozen.
According to researchers, climate change due to global warming is drastically melting the ancient permafrost, which could pose a potential public health threat to humans.
They stated that the potential revival of a virus that could infect animals or humans is much more problematic which has sparked fears of yet another pandemic.
“The situation would be much more disastrous in the case of plant, animal, or human diseases caused by the revival of an ancient unknown virus.”
European researchers examined ancient samples collected from permafrost in the Siberia region of Russia. They revived and characterized 13 new pathogens, what they termed “zombie viruses”, and found that they remained infectious despite spending many millennia trapped in the frozen ground.
The team of researchers from Russia, Germany, and France said the biological risk of the revived viruses they studied was “totally negligible” due to the strains they targeted, mainly those capable of infecting amoeba microbes.
In an article, the researchers wrote, “It is thus likely that ancient permafrost will release these unknown viruses upon thawing.”
“How long these viruses could remain infectious once exposed to outdoor conditions, and how likely they will be to encounter and infect a suitable host in the interval, is yet impossible to estimate.”
“But the risk is bound to increase in the context of global warming when permafrost thawing will keep accelerating, and more people will be populating the Arctic in the wake of industrial ventures,” they said.
They however warned that their work can be extrapolated to show the danger is real.
Scientists have long warned that the thawing of permafrost due to atmospheric warming will worsen climate change leading to trapped greenhouse gases like methane being freed. But its effect on dormant pathogens is less well understood.