Zombie Virus’: See 50,000 years old virus found in Siberia

Source: The post is based on the article “Zombie Virus’: See 50,000 years old virus found in Siberia” published in Economic Times on 1st December 2022.

What is the News?

French scientists have warned of the onset of another outbreak after they revived a 48,500-year-old zombie virus buried under a frozen lake in Russia.

What is a Zombie Virus?

Zombie virus is the term given to a virus that is frozen in ice and therefore dormant. Zombie viruses have been dormant for many years due to being trapped inside the ice and have come to life after the ice melted.

What have French researchers found?

European researchers have recently found 13 “zombie viruses” from Russia’s Siberian permafrost. 

One among these 13 zombie viruses has been named as Pandoravirus yedoma after the mythological character Pandora. This virus 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.

What is the cause of the revival of zombie viruses?

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.

What will be the impact of these zombie viruses?

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.

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