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Melting Siberian Permafrost: Ancient Viruses Pose Catastrophic Threat to Humanity, Scientists Warn


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Ancient Frozen Microbes in Siberian Permafrost Pose a Potential Threat to Humanity

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Ancient microbes that have been preserved in Siberian permafrost for thousands of years are now melting due to global warming, raising concerns among scientists about the potential catastrophic consequences for humanity.

The Release of Ancient Viruses

Virologist Jean-Michel Claverie warns that as the ice, frozen tens of thousands of years before human civilization, melts, ancient viruses could be unleashed into the environment.

For instance, if Neanderthals were killed by an ancient disease, the frozen bodies would still contain infectious viruses that could become active as the ice melts.

Viruses have already been found in the fur of mammoths, Siberian mummies, prehistoric wolves, and even in the lungs of a flu victim buried in Alaskan permafrost.

Scientists have identified six frozen pathogens which they believe pose the greatest threat to humanity.

The Revival of Giant Viruses

Claverie’s team has previously managed to revive giant viruses dating back 48,000 years. They warn that there could be even older viruses in the ice, some of which may have the potential to infect humans.

The team spent ten years searching for giant viruses frozen in ice. These “giant viruses” belong to the panoravirus family and have the ability to infect amoeba.

The Thawing Permafrost

About a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere is covered by permafrost, a permanently frozen ground. However, due to global warming, large areas of permafrost are now thawing.

Scientists have previously expressed concerns that global warming and melting ice could lead to the release of diseases such as smallpox, which are frozen in the bodies of long-deceased victims. Just a few infectious particles would be enough to revive the pathogen.

The Implications for the Future

The planet is already 1.2 degrees warmer than pre-industrial times, and scientists predict that the Arctic could experience ice-free summers as early as the 2030s.

In 2014, the Clarviri team successfully revived viruses, focusing only on those that can infect amoeba due to safety concerns.

Since 2019, Claverie and his team have identified 13 new viruses and warn that unknown ancient pathogens could have catastrophic consequences for humanity.

Claverie emphasizes, “Fifty thousand years ago takes us back to the time when Neanderthals disappeared from the region. If Neanderthals died from an unknown viral disease, and this virus reemerged, it could pose a danger to us.”


Daily Mail

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