50,000 Year Old ‘Zombie Virus’ Released from the Permafrost by Scientists

50,000 Year Old ‘Zombie Virus’ Released from the Permafrost by Scientists

Future health hazards coming from the Arctic due to the steadily rising temperatures in the area might be severe and end up affecting us all to a devastating extent.

The permafrost, which is the frozen layer of soil located right under the surface, is thawing in certain areas of the region, according to NASA climate experts. Permafrost covers one-fifth of the Northern Hemisphere.

With that being said, scientists have cautioned that if the permafrost drastically thaws, so-called “zombie viruses” that have been asleep for thousands of years in this frozen layer might emerge and endanger both people and animals all over the planet.

In new research published in the journal Viruses, scientists were able to distinguish between several strains of an ancient virus that had been found in permafrost.

The investigation found that they could all still infect amoeba cells in vitro, meaning that they are still very much potent in spite of being in limbo for millions of years.

Researchers only looked at a virus that may potentially affect amoeba cells, not animals or people, in order to be as cautious as possible in the lab and avoid a potentially disastrous accident for the whole of humanity.

Scientists claim that since permafrost offers an environment devoid of oxygen and unaffected by light, it acts as a sort of time capsule for viruses and mummified remnants of extinct species.

While researchers are optimistic that medicines will be able to treat diseases caused by ancient bacteria when they unavoidably get released from their frozen encasing by climate change, they are still worried about what may happen if viruses start to spread more and more.

According to NASA, efforts should be taken to address general climate issues in order to hopefully stop the thawing.

Otherwise, who knows what else might get released from this frozen layer, and next time, it may not happen under the supervision of scientists either!


Katherine is just getting her start as a journalist. She attended a technical school while still in high school where she learned a variety of skills, from photography to nutrition. Her enthusiasm for both natural and human sciences is real so she particularly enjoys covering topics on medicine and the environment.

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