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‘Zombie Virus’ Revived After Almost 50,000 Years Buried In Permafrost


‘Zombie Virus’ Revived After Almost 50,000 Years Buried In Permafrost

The last ten years have been spent searching for “zombie viruses” by Jean-Michel Claverie, a professor of economics and bioinformatics at Aix-Marseille University in France.

Even after being frozen for hundreds or thousands of years, these latent microorganisms may be able to infect hosts.

He just found evidence of a zombie virus that likely dates back 48,500 years.

This is the potential impact of these dormant viruses on human health.

Researchers Find a Virus That Has Been Dormant for 48,500 Years

Researchers have found a virus that is potentially 48,500 years old.

The virus was discovered preserved in the permafrost of Siberia.

The finding may indicate that viruses from the distant past can survive in a frozen state for extended periods of time without losing their infectious capacity. (1)

Claveria has cautiously focused its virus research on those that can infect amoebae.

Thirteen viruses were extracted by him and his group from Siberian permafrost samples. All of these viruses were able to infect amoeba when cultured together on petri plates.

After analyzing the permafrost samples with radiocarbon dating, scientists found that the youngest virus was 27,000 years old, while the oldest had been frozen for 48,500 years, making it the oldest virus ever revived. (2)

Permafrost: What Is It?

In order to qualify as permafrost, the ground temperature must be below 32 degrees Fahrenheit for at least two consecutive years.

It occupies as much as 20% of the land in Alaska, Canada, and S‘zombie Virus’ Revived After Almost 50,000 Years Buried In Permafrostberia.

Large quantities of carbon are stored in the permafrost, making it a very valuable resource.

The thawing of permafrost due to climate change releases this carbon into the atmosphere, adding to the warming effect. (3)

How Does Permafrost Preserve Things So Well?

Extremely low temperatures characterize permafrost. There is no oxygen or microbes in the soil, thus the earth is frozen solid.

This technique, known as mummification, is responsible for preserving organic matter for thousands of years.

Carbon dating has confirmed the age of many permafrost specimens of preserved flora and fauna at more than 50,000 years.

What Threat Do Zombies Viruses Present to Humanity?

As the Arctic warms and defrosts, bacteria and other animals that were previously frozen will be released into the surface environment.

Concerns about the effects of climate change on animal and human health are heightened by these findings.

“We view these amoeba-infecting viruses as surrogates for all other possible viruses that might be in the permafrost,” Claverie told CNN. “We see the traces of many, many, many other viruses, so we know they are there. We don’t know for sure that they are still alive. But our reasoning is that if the amoeba viruses are still alive, there is no reason why the other viruses will not be still alive, and capable of infecting their own hosts.”

Even while the viruses investigated by Claverie and company can only infect amoeba, this doesn’t indicate that other viruses that can infect humans and animals haven’t been found.

Human-infecting virus remnants have been found in permafrost, according to scientists.

For instance, in 1997, researchers in Alaska unearthed the body of a woman who had been preserved by the permafrost. Her lung tissue was tested, and the DNA of the virus that spread over the world in 1918 was found.

There is already some data suggesting that zombie viruses could pose serious problems for humans.

In Siberia, anthrax killed scores of humans and almost 2,000 reindeer in July and August of 2016.

The deeper thawing of the permafrost during abnormally hot summers has been blamed by scientists for this outbreak because it allowed dormant spores of Bacillus anthracis to reemerge from ancient burial places or animal carcasses.

“You must remember our immune defense has been developed in close contact with microbiological surroundings,” Birgitta Evengård, professor emerita at Umea University’s Department of Clinical Microbiology in Sweden told CNN.

“If there is a virus hidden in the permafrost that we have not been in contact with for thousands of years, it might be that our immune defense is not sufficient. It is correct to have respect for the situation and be proactive and not just reactive. And the way to fight fear is to have knowledge.”

To What Extent Could A Zombie Virus Spread To People?

They say we should study these viruses to be proactive, but they don’t want to provoke imminent fear because so much is yet unknown.

Given that modern conditions are vastly different from those tens of thousands of years ago, scientists are uncertain as to how long or how well a thawed virus would live.

Furthermore, a virus need a host in order to replicate. These frozen viruses are located in remote areas where there are few people. When defrosted, where will they look for a new home?

Moreover, not all viruses are pathogenic. Some of them are harmless, and some are even helpful.

The situation is still cause for alarm. After all, as the planet heats, it’s not just viruses that could revive.

With the advent of new industrial prospects, more people will be drawn to the Arctic.

This raises the prospect of a human being contracting a zombie virus, which could lead to complications.

“We’re really unclear as to how these microbes are going to interact with the modern environment,” said Kimberley Miner, a climate scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. “It’s not really an experiment that I think any of us want to run.”

Viral in Science:

What is the recommended next step, according to the specialists? Maintain as much of the permafrost’s frozen state as we can.

This requires us to keep up our resistance to climate change. A more frigid Arctic is preferable.

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Sources used:
“Scientists have revived a ‘zombie’ virus that spent 48,500 years frozen in permafrost.” CNN Katie Hunt. March 8, 2023.
“An Update on Eukaryotic Viruses Revived from Ancient Permafrost.” Pubmed. Jean-Marie Alempic, et al. February 2023.
“What Is Permafrost?” Climate Kid

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