Long-frozen ‘zombie virus’ is ‘public health threat’ amid thaw

Long-frozen ‘zombie virus’ is ‘public health threat’ amid thaw

They potentially open Pandora’s boxes.

French scientists have sparked fears of another pandemic after reviving a “zombie virus” that was trapped under a frozen lake in Russia for a record 50,000 years.

“The situation would be much more catastrophic in the case of plant, animal or human diseases caused by the revival of an ancient unknown virus,” it says in the “viral” study, which has yet to be reviewed. The new research was led by microbiologist Jean-Marie Alempic from France’s National Center for Scientific Research, Science Alert reports.

According to the preliminary paper, global warming is causing the irreversible melting of vast swaths of permafrost — the permanently frozen ground that covers a quarter of the northern hemisphere. This had the alarming effect of “releasing organic matter frozen for up to a million years” – including potentially harmful pathogens.

“Part of this organic matter also consists of reanimated cellular microbes (prokaryotes, unicellular eukaryotes) as well as viruses that have remained inactive since prehistoric times,” the researchers write.

Aix-Marseille University professor Jean-Michel Claverie, a co-author of the study, issued a warning to medical authorities about the lack of significant updates on “live” viruses in permafrost since the original studies in 2014 and 2015. the Sun announced. “This erroneously suggests that such occurrences are rare and that ‘zombie viruses’ are not a threat to public health,” the research team wrote in their findings.

“The situation would be much more catastrophic in the case of plant, animal or human diseases caused by the revival of an ancient unknown virus,” the researchers write.
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To study these awakening organisms, scientists have, perhaps paradoxically, revived some of these so-called “zombie viruses” from the Siberian permafrost. The oldest – called Pandoravirus yedoma after the mythological character Pandora, whose curiosity led her to open the problem with the box, and the type of soil in which it was found – it was 48,500 years old, a record age for a frozen virus to return to a state where it has the potential to infect other organisms . This broke the previous record held by a 30,000-year-old virus by the same team in Siberia in 2013.

The new strain is one of 13 viruses listed in the study, each of which possessed its own genome, Science Alert reported. While Pandoravirus was discovered beneath the bottom of a lake in Yukechi Alas, Yakutia, Russia, others have been found everywhere from mammoth fur to the intestines of Siberian wolves.

After studying live cultures, scientists discovered that all “zombie viruses” have the potential to be infectious, and are therefore a “health threat.” They assume we could see more Pandemics in the style of COVID-19 in the future, as the ever-melting permafrost continues to release long-dormant viruses like the microbial Captain America.

“Therefore, it is legitimate to think about the risk of ancient virus particles remaining infectious and returning to circulation by thawing ancient permafrost layers,” they write. Unfortunately, it is a vicious cycle because the organic matter released by melting ice decomposes into carbon dioxide and methane, further enhancing the greenhouse effect and accelerating the melting.

There are potentially more infectious viruses on the ice.
There is potentially more infectious virus on the ice – it melts.

The newly thawed virus could be just the tip of the epidemiological iceberg as there are likely more hibernating viruses yet to be discovered.

“If the authors do indeed isolate living viruses from ancient permafrost, it is likely that even smaller, simpler mammalian viruses would also survive being frozen for eons,” said University of California virologist Eric Delwart. he told New Scientist.

More research is needed to determine the level of infectivity of these unknown viruses when exposed to light, heat, oxygen and other external environmental factors.

This is not the first long-dormant organism to wake up from its frozen sleep. In June 2021, Russian scientists resurrected “zombie” worms which was frozen for 24,000 years in the Arctic.

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