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Melting Arctic unleashes deadly diseases

Diseases hidden in the ice are waking up! Melting ice could potentially open a Pandora’s box of diseases. Humans can catch a virus from a long-extinct Neanderthal. No viruses are permanently ‘eradicated’ from the planet.

Permafrost has been a good preserver of microbes and viruses, because it is cold, there is no oxygen, and it is dark. Pathogenic viruses that can infect humans or animals might be preserved in old permafrost layers, including some that have caused global epidemics in the past. The melting ice in the Arctic Circle could unleash deadly diseases which have been hiding for millions of years and a number of viruses have already been uncovered in the melting Arctic.

The soil under permafrost has offered a unique habitat to preserve bacteria and viruses over thousands of centuries. And, in what might appear as the latest plot for a disaster movie, scientists have warned that global warming could awaken monster diseases in the Arctic Circle. This could cause the re-emergence of global killers thought to have been eradicated, including smallpox, as well as a whole host of microbes that have lain dormant for millennia. Experts say this has already starting happening and some fear that they could cause a global pandemic in the future.

The mollivirus sibericum, found in the Kolyma lowland region of Russia, is the fourth prehistoric virus to have been found since 2003.

As Earth warms ‘northern countries’

will become more susceptible to outbreaks of

‘southern’ diseases like malaria, cholera and

dengue fever, as these pathogens thrive

at warmer temperatures.

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