As the frost melts off the creatures stuck under the ice for thousands of years, they are ready to enter the world of today.
The premise sounds like something out of a horror movie, but there’s some truth to it, especially in the cases of viruses frozen in glaciers. Considering melting ice caps, which is a direct product of climate change, what threats do these ancient viruses pose to human life?
Climate change and viruses
A new study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B has found that frozen ancient viruses that exist in glaciers may be of concern, as melting icebergs will allow the pathogen to escape, according to Living room.
Researchers analyzed soil and lake sediments from Lake Hazen, a freshwater lake in Canada, north of the Arctic Circle, to study the “spillover risk” where a virus is able to continue to infect and spread. transmit in a sustainable way, by the study.
The samples were then analyzed for their DNA and RNA to match them to known living organisms.
According The Guardianresearch has found that the risk of overflow is higher in areas where glacial meltwater typically infiltrates, but current levels of global warming may make this a common occurrence.
Work is still ongoing as known viruses and their abilities are identified.
“The melting will not only result in the loss of these old archived microbes and virusbut also release them into environments in the future,” another study from last yearled by author and microbiologist Zhi-Ping Zhong, of The Ohio State University, concluded.
Climate change and virus science
Does this mean climate change could invite another pandemic? Not exactly. As the study notes, “assess the risk of overflow” is not the same as predicting a pandemic.
“As long as viruses and their ‘bridge vectors’ are not simultaneously present in the environment, the likelihood of dramatic events is likely to remain low,” said the research said.
“But as climate change drives changes in species range and distribution, new associations may emerge, bringing vectors that can mediate viral fallout.”
What does other research say?
Research last year identified 33 viruses that are 15,000 years old and originated from the Guliya Ice Cap on the Tibetan Plateau.
“These glaciers were formed gradually, and together with the dust and the gases, very many viruses were also deposited in this ice,” Zhi-Ping said in a Press release.
Meanwhile, Ohio State University microbiologist Matthew Sullivan noted that these viruses, which “would have thrived in extreme environments”, have “genes that help them infect cells in cold environments – just surreal genetic signatures of how a virus is able to survive in extreme conditions” .
Another study from 2014 managed to revive a virus, which had not been active for 30,000 years and originated in Siberia.