The thawing of ancient permafrost due to climate change may pose a new threat to humans, according to researchers who revived nearly two dozen viruses – including one frozen under a lake more than 48,500 years ago.
European researchers examined ancient samples collected from permafrost in the Siberia region of Russia. They revived and characterized 13 new pathogens, what they termed “zombie viruses,” and found that they remained infectious despite spending many millennia trapped in the frozen ground.
Scientists have long warned that the thawing of permafrost due to atmospheric warming will worsen climate change by freeing previously trapped greenhouse gases like methane. But its effect on dormant pathogens is less well understood.