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Zombie Virus

  • 01 Dec 2022
  • 2 min read

Why in News?

European researchers have raised concerns of yet another pandemic after resurrecting a 48,500-year-old ‘Zombie Virus’ from a frozen lake in Russia.

What is a Zombie Virus?

  • About:
    • 13 new pathogens have been characterized, what are termed ‘Zombie Viruses’, which remained infectious despite spending many millennia trapped in the frozen ground.
    • The virus emerged due to the thawing of permafrost as the global temperature is rising.
    • The new strain is one of 13 viruses, each of which possesses its own genome.
      • The oldest, dubbed Pandoravirus yedoma after the mythological character Pandora, was 48,500 years old, a record age for a frozen virus returning to a state where it has the potential to infect other organisms.
    • This has broken the previous record held by a 30,000-year-old virus discovered by the same team in Siberia in 2013.
  • Causes:
    • One-quarter of the Northern hemisphere is underlain by permanently frozen ground, referred to as permafrost.
    • Due to climate warming, irreversibly thawing permafrost is releasing organic matter frozen for up to a million years, most of which decomposes into carbon dioxide and methane, further enhancing the greenhouse effect.
    • Part of this organic matter also consists of revived cellular microbes (prokaryotes, unicellular eukaryotes) as well as viruses that remained dormant since prehistoric times.
  • Potential Impact:
    • All of the "zombie viruses" have the potential to be infectious and hence pose a "health danger" after researching the live cultures.
    • It is believed that pandemics like Covid-19 will become more common in the future as melting permafrost releases long-dormant viruses like a microbial Captain America.

Source: ET

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