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17 Dec, 2021 21:30

Global warming might give rise to ‘zombie’ pathogens in the Arctic – top official to RT

Global warming might give rise to ‘zombie’ pathogens in the Arctic – top official to RT

Climate change could impact ecosystems in the Arctic, leading to the emergence of dangerous new viruses that may infect humans, including some “zombie” pathogens left sleeping for centuries, a top Russian official has warned.

The rapid melting of the Arctic permafrost is a “dangerous phenomenon,” said Nikolay Korchunov, a senior Russian representative to the Arctic Council told RT, on Friday.

Thawing soil that has been deeply frozen for centuries, if not for millennia, could still contain “some viable spores of ‘zombie’ bacteria and viruses.”

Russia, which took leadership of the organisation in May, considers this danger to be significant enough to initiate a biosafety project that would see the member states of the Arctic Council working together to “determine the number of viruses and their potential danger,” said Korchunov.

The intergovernmental forum is made up of eight countries that have sovereignty over land within the Arctic Circle. Apart from Russia, it also includes the US, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Finland, and Sweden.

The centuries-old pathogens are not the only danger that can stem from the global warming effects in the Arctic. Climate change “affects the geography of migration routes as well as seasonality and the breeding grounds of wild birds, fish insects and other animals,” the Russian diplomat said.

Since the migration routes and breeding grounds of wild birds have changed, some viruses they are carrying “can undergo genetic recombination and turn into strains affecting humans,” Korchunov warned, adding that some bird species migrate annually while being the “main carriers” of pathogens such as Influenza A.