The melting ice at the poles could release deadly viruses to the world, which have been kept in the frozen peaks of the ice structures for thousands of years, scientists claim. As the warming temperatures keep affecting the planet, specialists alert people that old viruses which have been conserved under ice until now could be melting out.
Deadly Viruses Underneath Ice
A team of scientists from the United States and China traveled to Tibet to collect samples of the planet’s oldest glacial ice. They dug about 50 meters below the surface and gathered samples of ice which provide an idea on Earth’s viral background. The team discovered 28 ancient viruses in the 15,000-year-old ice, which were unfamiliar to the scientists.
The specialists from the Ohio State University and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory suggest that as the planet keeps warming up, making more ice to thaw, unknown viruses could be unveiled and infect humans.
Research published in the journal bioRxiv said: “This study establishes ultra-clean microbial and viral sampling procedures for glacier ice, which complements prior in silico decontamination methods and expands, for the first time, the clean procedures to viruses. At a minimum, [ice melt] could lead to the loss of microbial and viral archives that could be diagnostic and informative of past Earth climate regimes. However, in a worst-case scenario, this ice melt could release pathogens into the environment.”
The New Coronavirus
The paper comes as the world is facing an unknown coronavirus, called 2019-nCoV, or novel coronavirus, which means that it is a new strain that has yet to be analyzed. Coronaviruses are a group of pathogens that includes the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
Zhong Nanshan, a renowned Chinese expert analyzing the new virus, stated that it is definitely a ‘human-to-human transmission phenomenon.’ Symptoms of the condition are similar to those of the flu, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been noting them. These include runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat, fever, and an overall feeling of being unwell.
The CDC stated: “Human coronaviruses can sometimes cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses, such as pneumonia or bronchitis. This is more common in people with cardiopulmonary disease, people with weakened immune systems, infants, and older adults.”