As climate change continues to take its toll on the planet, experts are warning that ancient viruses which have been preserved in ice could be thawed out. A team of researchers from the US and China travelled to Tibet to gather samples of Earth’s oldest glacial ice.
By drilling 50 metres below the surface, researchers were able to collect samples of ice which offer a glimpse into Earth’s viral history.
The team uncovered 28 ancient viruses in the 15,000-year-old ice which were previously unknown to scientists.
And the experts from The Ohio State University and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory believe that as the planet continues to warm leading to more ice melt, unknown viruses could thaw out and infect humanity.
A study published in the online journal bioRxiv read: “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 report comes as the planet begins to deal with an unknown coronavirus.
Nearly 1,300 people have now contracted the mysterious disease across 12 countries in the past months, leading to at least 41 deaths.
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