In November 2022, scientists in Europe announced the revival of a virus that had been dormant for about 50,000 years. The previous record was held by a virus identified in Siberia in 2013 that was thought to be 30,000 years old, but this new find tops it. Several zombie virus which were frozen in the Siberian permafrost for thousands of years were recently resurrected by scientists. The announcement of a new virus has been known to cause widespread panic and the rapid proliferation of related memes on Twitter since the COVID-19 pandemic. A microbiologist named Jean-Marie Alempic from the French National Centre for Scientific Research oversaw the latest study. However, experts believe that this new virus finding is simply the tip of the iceberg and that many more similar viruses lie dormant beneath the surface. The re-emergence of a virus that may infect animals or people is a much more serious threat.
What is this newly discovered Virus?
Scientists from Europe dug through frozen samples from Russia’s Siberian area. They discovered 13 pathogens and dubbed it a “zombie virus”. Warming temperatures in Siberia are thawing the permafrost layer that had been frozen for millennia.
The study found that permafrost, or permanently frozen ground, covers around a fourth of the Northern hemisphere. As the planet warms, permafrost begins to thaw irreversibly, unleashing organic materials that have been frozen for hundreds or thousands millions of years. This organic stuff includes latent viruses and cellular microorganisms (prokaryotes, unicellular eukaryotes) that have been reawakened.
Is this Zombie Virus Harmful?
After studying the live cultures, researchers found that every single one of the “zombie viruses” has the potential to be contagious. They also discovered that they remained contagious despite spending many millennia locked in the frozen permafrost.
The French National Centre for Scientific Research team warned that more research was needed to determine the potential risks posed by viruses in permafrost as warming temperatures thaw frozen landscapes.
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