Scientists Revive ‘Zombie Virus’ That Infected Cells


Kay Smythe News and Commentary Writer
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A study published in late February showed that a revived “zombie virus” could infect amoeba cells, posing potential threats for the future as more viruses emerge from melting permafrost globally.

Authors of the study, published in the journal “Viruses,” noted that a quarter of the northern hemisphere is coated in permafrost, which is irreversibly thawing as the planet enters a new warming cycle. As permafrost melts, organic matter that has laid dormant since potentially prehistoric times is seeing the light of day, allowing viruses and microbes to awaken once again.

The authors argued that no studies have been published on “live” viruses since the mid-2010s, and that the lack of research “wrongly suggest[s] that such occurrences are rare and that ‘zombie viruses’ are not a public health threat.” In order to communicate the scale of the threat zombie viruses pose, the researchers reported characterizations of 13 new viruses from various locales of permafrost — including underground lakes and from organic matter frozen in time.

Various strains of the ancient viruses were tested, with at least one infecting cultured amoeba cells. The authors found that the threat from the amoeba-focused viruses likely aren’t as strong as those found in preserved remains of mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses and other prehistoric animals trapped by permafrost. These animals and various viruses associated with their thawing are currently being studied at the Novosibirsk Vector laboratory in Russia, the study authors noted.

“How long these viruses could remain infectious once exposed to outdoor conditions (UV light, oxygen, heat), and how likely they will be to encounter and infect a suitable host in the interval, is yet impossible to estimate, but the risk is bound to increase in the context of global warming, in which permafrost thawing will keep accelerating, and more people will populate the Arctic in the wake of industrial ventures,” the authors wrote.

The oldest virus samples studied were 48,500 years old, based on radiocarbon dating of soil at the site the virus was uncovered, CNN reported. The younger viruses were roughly 27,000 years old.

Research into zombie viruses is ongoing, with no real data available publicly on the potential short- and long-term consequences of the viruses we know of, and the many others not yet discovered. (RELATED: REPORT: Strange New Virus With High Fatality Rate In China Has Infected 35 People)

The rise in reports on zombie viruses oddly coincides with predictions made by a blind Bulgarian mystic, Baba Vanga, whose accuracy has surprised many over the years. Baba Vanga believed that a major pandemic will emerge in 2023 as the Siberian tundra and permafrost melts.