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16 June, 2024
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Ancient 'zombie viruses' stir beneath melting permafrost

Global warming revives dormant deadly pathogens


In a chilling revelation, scientists have unearthed a concerning array of ancient pathogens from beneath the permafrost in Siberia, indicating a potential threat of a bizarre new pandemic looming on humanity’s horizon.

As reported by Metro uK, these pathogens, some dormant for tens of thousands of years, have resurfaced due to the alarming rate of global warming, which is causing the once-frozen terrain to thaw.

Among the 13 newly identified pathogens is the Methuselah virus, an ancient menace known to scientists for years. With temperatures soaring globally, the risk of these 'zombie viruses' triggering a widespread pandemic has escalated, as the thawing permafrost exposes more of these long-dormant threats. Permafrost, a frozen layer covering a significant portion of the northern hemisphere, preserves biological material in its cold, dark, oxygen-deprived environment, harboring hundreds of billions of microbes predating human existence.

The disquieting aspect lies not only in rising temperatures but also in the diminishing Arctic sea ice, facilitating increased human activity in Siberia. Planned industrial endeavors, including extensive mining operations, pose a substantial risk of unleashing these ancient pathogens into the atmosphere. Scientists caution that such activities could inadvertently expose workers to these viruses, potentially triggering calamitous consequences.

Despite the focus on pandemics originating in southern regions and spreading northward, the threat of an outbreak emerging from the far north and spreading southwards cannot be ignored. Research indicates that while rare, ancient pathogens have historically caused significant ecosystem disruptions, with an estimated four sextillion microbes escaping the permafrost annually, a number steadily on the rise.

Corey Bradshaw, Director of the Global Ecology Laboratory at Flinders University, likens the threat posed by these ancient viruses to invasive species introductions, emphasizing the sheer volume of potential threats. Some of these viruses, believed to be over a million years old, pose unprecedented challenges to human immune systems, unprepared for such alien adversaries.

Amidst these alarming findings, experts stress the importance of viewing the research as a warning rather than a call to immediate action. Dr. Kimberley Miner, a climate scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, underscores the urgency of addressing climate change as a primary preventive measure, emphasizing the need to mitigate carbon emissions.

In conclusion, while the discovery of ancient pathogens presents a foreboding prospect, proactive measures in combating climate change remain paramount. As highlighted by Dr. Jean-Michel Claverie of Aix-Marseille University, readiness and awareness stand as crucial pillars in confronting this emerging threat, urging concerted efforts towards environmental stewardship and sustainable practices to safeguard against potential global pandemics.

[With information sourced from Metro UK]

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