If you were a screenwriter portraying the wilderness of Siberia, you would probably be thinking about what mystery you could conjure up to make the already desolate setting more intriguing to the plot. A few lurking beasts would do the trick. some dangerous ancient lost technology. Or is there an ancient zombie virus hiding in the icy depths? (Ding-ding-ding!)
Day by day it seems that real science is on its way to catching up with science fiction and scientists have discovered the latest of these above speculations. Researchers have recently revived a group of ancient viruses that have been conserved in the frigid domain of Siberian permafrost for tens of thousands of years, and some fear it could have catastrophic effects. While climate change is causing temperatures to skyrocket around the world, it has also begun to irreversibly thaw significant parts of the frozen northern hemisphere: a permanently frozen patch called permafrost.
While the main concern here has been the amount of greenhouse gases released by this effect, the more recent concern is that these could also release dangerous ancient microbes into the world that could pose a significant hazard to the public. Health. Of the 13 primitive viruses these researchers found, the oldest was an amoeba virus found 48.50 0 years ago in stoic torpor under a lake.
Using cultures of live unicellular amoebas, the team found that all 13 viruses still had the potential to become infectious pathogens. While most of the viruses we’ve discovered so far only target amoebas, scientists think there may be a few on the hunt that could also cause plant, animal, or human disease. We had already observed the release of bacterial plumes, but they pose less of a threat since we can take some antibiotics. But if we accidentally release a new virus like
Sars-CoV-2, it could spell public health disaster. “Therefore, it is legitimate to consider the risk that old virus particles remain infectious and are re-circulated by the thawing of old layers of permafrost,” the article explains.
Most of the viruses that will be released as the permafrost continue to melt will be unknown to us as they have been stuck in time for literally eons. However, whether they become infected when exposed to current climatic conditions, which may differ greatly from the time they were kept, remains to be seen.