Nearly 50,000-Year-Old ‘Zombie Virus’ with Potential to Infect Humans Discovered Frozen in Ice

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For almost 50,000 years, viruses have been waiting, frozen in layers of permafrost that have thawed with the warming of Earth.

A recent study of a section of Siberian permafrost by scientists from the French National Centre for Scientific Research found 13 viruses that have survived 48,500 years, according to Canada’s Global News. That’s older than the previous oldest virus found, which was 30,000 years old.

One of the new finds has been dubbed a “zombie virus” by the New York Post.

“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,” said an abstract of the study posted on BioRxiv, which publishes study pre-prints.

The abstract said the lack of discussion of viruses found in permafrost “wrongly suggests that such occurrences are rare and that ‘zombie viruses’ are not a public health threat.”

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The study framed the need to study the viruses and bring them to life under strict laboratory conditions as necessary to address prevention should they become active and a public health threat through, for example, such activities as open-pit mining in areas of what once was permafrost.

“Fortunately, we can reasonably hope that an epidemic caused by a revived prehistoric pathogenic bacterium could be quickly controlled by the modern antibiotics at our disposal,” the full study said.

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“The situation would be much more disastrous in the case of plant, animal, or human diseases caused by the revival of an ancient unknown virus,” it said.

The study noted the necessity of preparedness against a potential pandemic.

“As unfortunately well documented by recent (and ongoing) pandemics, each new virus,…


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