Over the last century, due to thorough research and development in antibiotics, human beings have been able to combat issues such as common cold and small pox etc. However, this battle doesn’t end here, as there are researcher who indicate that bacteria and viruses are developing resistance towards antibiotics (Skelly, 2017). To top it all, recent research shows that ancient viruses and bacteria which were buried deep under the ice are coming back to life due to the rapid melting of ice in the snow-capped regions around the world.
Global warming has been claimed to cause rising sea levels and sea temperature but to add to it, rising temperature is also becoming a reason for bacteria and viruses to come alive. Revich and Podolnaya (2011) while monitoring of soil temperatures at the Siberian cryology stations since 1970, has found positive correlation between air temperature and depth of permafrost layer thawing during summers.They have further observed that between the 1900s and 1980s, the temperature of the surface layer of permafrost increased by 2–4°C. An article by Skelly (2017), has stated that permafrost (frozen soil), that were frozen for thousands of years have started melting, thereby releasing ancient viruses and bacteria that were inactive so far.This event has created quite a stir within the scientific world and have forced researchers to study probable repercussions.
Skelly in her article cited Jean Michel Claverie who is an evolutionary biologist at Aix-Marseille University in France, said that permafrost have the ability to preserve microbes and viruses, as it is dark, cold and there is no oxygen.Some pathogenic viruses buried here may have the capacity to infect humans or animals. To support Jean Michel’s statement, Skelly mentioned that in a remote place, the Yamal Peninsula in the Arctic Circle a 12-year-old boy died and at least twenty people were hospitalised after being infected by anthrax. The plausible explanation of this incident was that over 75 years ago, a reindeer infected with anthrax died and its corpse got trapped under frozen soil, which was intact until 2016 heat wave after which the anthrax contaminated the water, soil and the food supply (Skelly,2017). There are other findings which suggest that anthrax has been the reason of death for 1.5 million deer in northern Russia between 1897 and 1925 (Revich and Podolnaya, 2011).
There are already several reports show that bacteria, viruses and microbes can be revived despite being frozen, trapped and inactive in the ice. For example, a research conducted in 2005 by NASA Scientists as cited by Skelly in her article suggested that they had successfully revived a microbe named as Carnobacteriumpleistocenium, which was frozen in a pond in Alaska for 32,000 years.After the ice melted, they were active and swimming around unaffectedly. Further these scientists were able to bring alive an 8 million old bacteria that was inactive beneath the surface of Antarctic glaciers( Skelly,2017). Such scientific revelations have led to more such research endeavours. For instance, a study in 2014 led by Claverie, was successful in reviving two viruses named as Pithovirus sibericum and Mollivirussibericum. Their study reported that these viruses were trapped in the Siberian permafrost for 30,000 years, and after they were revived and quickly became infectious to amoebas, but fortunately not to human beings ( Skelly, 2017).
However, such revelations could also make one think that there could be huge number of viruses, still trapped in the permafrost which could affect human beings. With the rapid global warming rate these viruses and microbes, are not very far from getting into the food supply chain. Ghose (2014) cites Claverie, saying that discovery of such trapped bacteria, viruses or microbes may be curable by antibiotics or could also be resistant. Moreover,if the pathogen has not been in contact with humans for a very long time then it could be dangerous for human beings as our immune systems would not be prepared. However, there are other concerns too Goudarzi (2016) in her article has specified that more immediate attention must be brought to the carriers of diseases such as mosquitoes, as with high temperature their chances of survival also increases.