Warning: 'Zombie Viruses' from Arctic Permafrost Could Spark Next Pandemic, Experts Caution
The repercussions of climate change are becoming more ominous as the Arctic permafrost thaws, presenting a potential threat to global health.
Scientists are now sounding the alarm that the melting permafrost in the Arctic could unleash ancient viruses, nicknamed "zombie viruses" or Methuselah viruses, with the potential to trigger the next pandemic.
Researchers have already isolated these ancient viruses, expressing concerns about a looming global emergency, as reported by The Observer.
To proactively address this risk, scientists are advocating for the establishment of an Arctic monitoring network.
This network would play a critical role in detecting early cases of diseases caused by ancient microorganisms, offering quarantine assistance, and delivering expert medical treatment to prevent the spread of infections beyond the region.
Geneticist Jean-Michel Claverie of Aix-Marseille University emphasized the oversight in current pandemic threat analyses, which predominantly focus on diseases emerging in southern regions and spreading north.
The potential for an outbreak originating in the far north and traveling south has not received sufficient attention.
Claverie warns of viruses in the Arctic with the capacity to infect humans and incite a new disease outbreak.
Permafrost, characterized by soil or underwater sediment frozen for extended periods below freezing temperatures, covers a significant portion of the northern hemisphere.
This cold, dark, and oxygen-deprived environment serves as an excellent preserver of biological material.
In a noteworthy instance, scientists revived microscopic worms frozen in Siberian permafrost for 46,000 years.
In 2014, Michel Claverie and a scientific team isolated live viruses in Siberia, demonstrating their ability to infect single-cell organisms despite millennia in permafrost.
While these viruses were harmless to humans, the discovery raises concerns about potentially dangerous viruses lurking in the permafrost.
Claverie disclosed the identification of genomic traces of poxviruses and herpesviruses, known to infect humans, further emphasizing the need for vigilance.