The melting ice in the Arctic could release ancient viruses
Over the past several decades, scientists plying their trade in the most northernly tip of the globe have uncovered several ancient viruses.
Researchers working in Siberia in 2015 discovered a long-forgotten, 30,000 year-old virus known as Mollivirus sibericum that was intentionally awoken in a laboratory.
However, this has led to fears that as the permafrost in the Arctic circle continues to melt thanks to global warming, several ancient viruses could be unleashed.
Evolutionary biologist Jean-Michel Claverie at Aix-Marseille University in France told the BBC: "Permafrost is a very good preserver of microbes and viruses, because it is cold, there is no oxygen, and it is dark.
"Pathogenic viruses that can infect humans or animals might be preserved in old permafrost layers, including some that have caused global epidemics in the past.”
A 2011 study warned: “As a consequence of permafrost melting, the vectors of deadly infections of the 18th and 19th Centuries may come back, especially near the cemeteries where the victims of these infections were buried.”
Anthrax was found in frozen deer in Siberia
However, author of ‘A Planet of Viruses’, Carl Zimmer, believes that the emergence of ancient viruses should not worry us just yet.
He told Business Insider: “There are no human pathogens that have burst out of the Siberian permafrost.
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Arctic ice is melting due to global warming
“That's not to say that viruses won't emerge, but there are so many viruses circulating in living animals, I think we should put these frozen viruses very low on our list of concerns.”
He added that the viruses that have been detected "didn't just thaw themselves out”
He said: "They were carefully processed in labs. That's yet another clue that the odds of an ancient outbreak are very low."