- 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.
- The researchers warned that Climate change-induced thawing of the permanently frozen land (permafrost) in the Arctic could pose a new public health threat.
What is a Zombie Virus?
- 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.
- 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.