Scientists have discovered in the permafrost of Siberia a 30,000 year old virus (as large as a bacterium) that, in laboratory experiments, killed amoebas. It is not dangerous to humans. However, it raises the concern that as permafrost melts due to global warming  other ancient viruses or bacteria that are more harmful to humans and to which humans have little resistance might be released into the ecosystem. Per the article:


....The findings raise the possibility that other long-dormant or eradicated viruses could be resurrected from the Arctic. As the climate warms and sea ice and permafrost melt, oil and mining companies are drilling many formerly off-limit areas in Russia, raising the possibility that ancient human viruses could be released....the new discovery raises the possibility that as the climate warms and exploration expands in long-untouched regions of Siberia, humans could release ancient or eradicated viruses. These could include Neanderthal viruses or even smallpox that have lain dormant in the ice for thousands of years...."There is now a non-zero probability that the pathogenic microbes that bothered [ancient human populations] could be revived, and most likely infect us as well,".... "Those pathogens could be banal bacteria (curable with antibiotics) or resistant bacteria or nasty viruses. If they have been extinct for a long time, then our immune system is no longer prepared to respond to them."....The findings were published today (March 3) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Some scientists hold that there would not be enough of the resurrected pathogens to seriously impact the ecosystem. 

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Replies to This Discussion

This seems like something out of the X-files.

Who knows what could happen. Im more concerned about other effects of climate change.

I don't think the researchers are saying that we should be less concerned about other possible effects of climate change. Rather, I think they are pointing out this one for consideration in addition to the others in order that we address climate change in a comprehensively responsible manner.

I would hate to see smallpox come back.  I think there have also been other epidemics that were not fully explained.  I would hate to see them happen too.




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