Viruses have been the talk of the town, particularly since Covid changed life on every corner of the planet in 2020. But the threat from viruses is nothing new, even going back to the dark ages and Spanish Flu, Norovirus, Sars – the list goes on. Covid, is the just the most recent virus to effect the modern global community in a big way.
So, how would you feel if scientists have decided to resurrect an ancient virus, especially one that carries the ominous name of “Zombie” virus? As the climate warms and Siberia’s permafrost melts, the possibility of viruses frozen in time suddenly being released back into the world is highly likely. French researcher Jean-Michel Claverie is currently testing a 48,000 year old virus which he believes could be one of a potential seven he’s detected that could be released from the permafrost as it melts. While the scientists are unsure whether these viruses have the ability to jump hosts and infect humans, there’s still a real possibility that they could make us ill.
“You must remember our immune defense has been developed in close contact with microbiological surroundings,” Birgitta Evengård, professor at Umea University in Sweden. “If there is a virus hidden in the permafrost that we have not been in contact with for thousands of years, it might be that our immune defense is not sufficient,” she said. “It is correct to have respect for the situation and be proactive and not just reactive. And the way to fight fear is to have knowledge.”
At the moment, the viruses that Claverie has managed to isolate and revive from the permafrost infect only single-cell amoeba’s, his concern is their effect on humans and animals. “We view these amoeba-infecting viruses as surrogates for all other possible viruses that might be in the permafrost,” the French scientist explained. “We see the traces of many, many, many other viruses, so we know they are there.”
Because these frozen viruses were present on the Earth so many years ago, they pose less of a threat to mankind than recent viruses which have evolved and changed to survive in a modern day environment and develop defenses against advanced medical treatment.
While calling a virus a “Zombie” virus sounds scary and likely to cause concern, it only derives it’s name because of being reanimated from a frozen inactive state to an active state, not because it is likely to cause humans to become the undead feeding off the brains of the living. Don’t panic.