Scientists from IGS-CNRS in Marseille, France are warning of a potential new pandemic caused by ancient viruses, including the ‘zombie virus’ Pithovirus sibericum, that have been frozen for over 30,000 years in the Arctic. The thawing process accelerated by global warming and increased human activity in the region poses a risk of releasing these viruses and causing the emergence of new diseases. Researchers have isolated strains of the ‘zombie virus’ to prevent its potential global spread and are planning a surveillance network in the Arctic to identify and treat any possible diseases resulting from thawed viruses. The discovery of the ‘zombie virus’ in Siberian permafrost has raised concerns about the possibility of ancient viruses causing a global outbreak if not properly managed.
Dutch virologist Marion Koopmans emphasized the uncertainty surrounding the viruses in permafrost, stating that there is a real risk of triggering a disease outbreak, such as an ancient form of polio. This underscores the need for precautions and monitoring to prevent and respond to emerging infectious threats from thawed Arctic microbes.
Overall, the warning from the scientists highlights the serious threat posed by the thawing of ancient viruses in the Arctic and the need for proactive measures to prevent a potential new pandemic caused by the release of these viruses.