What ‘viral spillover risk’ means, and how it could lead to new pandemics

Source: The post is based on the article “What ‘viral spillover risk’ means, and how it could lead to new pandemics” published in Indian Express on 25th October 2022

What is the News?

According to new research published in a UK journal, there is an increased risk of “viral spillover” in some regions that could cause new pandemics over the next few years.

What is Viral spillover?

Viruses are some of the most abundant entities on earth, but they need to infect a host’s cell in order to replicate. 

According to the research, these virus/host relationships seem relatively stable within superkingdoms, the major groupings of organisms. 

However, below this rank, viruses may infect a new host from a reservoir host (in which it usually resides) by being able to transmit sustainably in a novel host – a process defined as ‘viral spillover’.

Many viruses in recent years such as Influenza A, Ebola, and SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) spilled over to humans and caused significant diseases.

How viral spillover could lead to new pandemics?

Researchers collected samples from Lake Hazen in Canada, the world’s largest High Arctic lake by volume and has the largest freshwater ecosystem.

Based on the study, they concluded that climate change is melting glaciers and this could create a possibility of the emergence of new viruses trapped in the ice for years. 

The hosts (humans or animals) can move to previously inhabitable regions and can come in contact with such pathogens which could cause viral spillover.

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