Scientists have found several types of ancient viruses from permafrost samples throughout Siberia. The oldest species is almost 48,500 years old.
One of the dangers that can be caused by global warming. It is about what is frozen in an iceberg. including permafrost, be it chemical waste Radioactive materials, including “ancient viruses,” may awaken from their slumber as warming global temperatures melt those ice caps.
Even if a case of a germ from the distant past sounds like a science fiction story But scientists warn that even if the risk is small But it is a danger whose danger cannot be underestimated.
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For this reason, scientists are trying to study ancient viruses found in these ice caps. whether or not it can still infect and harm living organisms today
To better understand the potential risks posed by this ancient, icy virus, Jean-Michel Clavery, professor of medicine and genetics at the College of Medicine. French University Ix-Marseille Soil samples taken from permafrost in Siberia were studied. to see if any infectious viral particles are still present
Claveri was inspired to study viruses frozen in permafrost soil by the discovery in 2012 by a team of Russian scientists that could resurrect ancient flowers from 30,000-year-old seed tissue found in the burrow of a squirrel to come back into existence in the world again
In 2014, Claveri successfully resurrected the virus he and his team discovered in Permafrost. It is more than 30,000 years old. not animals or humans because of the risk of mutation
And in his latest work, published February 18 in the journal Viruses, Claveri and colleagues isolated several types of ancient virus from seven permafrost samples across Siberia, and found “they can also infect amoeba cells.”
Several strains of this ancient virus have recently been found. Divided into five new families of viruses, the oldest is almost 48,500 years old, based on the radioactive carbon age of the soil.
Claveri said Viruses that can infect amoeba can still spread even after a long time Indicates a problem that could be bigger.
He said people might see his research as just scientific curiosity. It ignores the possibility of ancient viruses returning to life as a serious threat to public health.
“We consider these viruses as representatives of other possible viruses that may be present in permafrost,” Claveri said.
He added: “We saw a lot of traces of other viruses … we knew they were there. We don’t know for sure if they are alive or not. But our reason is If this ancient virus we found is still alive There is no reason other viruses wouldn’t survive. and they can infect their hosts.”
So, study ancient viruses to catch up with them first. therefore it is necessary
Bergitta Evangard, a professor at the Department of Clinical Microbiology at Umue University in Sweden, said that the risks caused by pathogens should be monitored when melting ice. But there is no need to panic.
He said, “It is better not to insult the situation. and be an offensive party, not a defensive party And the best way to fight fear is knowledge.”
Scientists still don’t know for sure. How long can these viruses survive when exposed to current conditions? Or what is the probability that the virus will find a suitable host?
Furthermore, not all ancient viruses are capable of causing disease. Some are harmless or even beneficial to the host.
Of course, permafrost and the ice that could harbor ancient viruses was not the only site of this discovery in Siberia. But many areas in the northern hemisphere are considered dangerous. In particular, the Arctic or North Pole region is facing the highest rates of ice melting on record.
However, the Arctic only has 3.6 million people. It is a sparsely populated place. This means that the risk of humans coming into contact with this ancient virus is very low.
Still, Clavery warned that “These risks will increase in the context of global warming. because the permafrost will continue to accelerate.”
Kimberley Minor, a NASA scientist also warns that Potential dangers apart from ancient viruses This also includes buried waste from heavy metal mining and chemical dumps in the past, such as the pesticide DDT. Or various radioactive materials dumped in the Arctic by Russia and the United States. since nuclear tests in the 1950s
Minor said that Direct human infection by ancient pathogens released from permafrost “Not likely at this time”
However, Minor was worried about the so-called Methuselah microbe (Methuselah is the name of the world’s tallest biblical figure), he said, could bring the dynamics of an ancient, extinct ecosystem to the Arctic in the present. without knowing the consequences
The re-emergence of micro-organisms has the potential to alter soil composition and plant growth. This could also accelerate the effects of climate change.
“We are not clear how these microbes will interact with modern environments,” he said, adding that is the best course of action for this. trying to stop melting and the climate crisis And keep these dangerous threats in the permafrost forever.
Compiled from CNN
Photo courtesy of Jean-Michel Claverie.