Claim: Climate Change Could Cause Us Catch a Nasty Wooly Mammoth Virus

Essay by Eric Worrall

Aix Marseille University Professor Emeritus Dr Claverie explaining how ancient mammoth viruses released by melting permafrost could make us sick.

Could a frozen ancient virus thawed by climate change cause the next pandemic? 

ABC RN / By Sam Nichols for Future Tense

Climate change threatens human life in many ways but one of the less obvious could be a rise in pandemics.

A warming climate could release ancient pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses, that have been frozen in permafrost in the polar regions for millennia, Jean-Michel Claverie tells ABC RN’s Future Tense.

“We know for certain that bacteria can remain dormant but alive for probably up to 500,000 years in permafrost. And so at that point, this is the very beginning of Homo sapiens. Our species was just emerging [at that time],” says the emeritus professor of medicine at France’s Aix Marseille University.

Dr Claverie and his team of researchers recently published their findings on seven ancient viruses found in Siberia’s permafrost. One was almost 50,000 years old and still infectious.

Read more:

The abstract of the study;

An update on eukaryotic viruses revived from ancient perma- 2

Jean-Marie Alempic 1#, Audrey Lartigue 1#, Artemiy E Goncharov 2, Guido Grosse 3,4, Jens Strauss 3, Alexey N. Tikhonov 5, Alexander N. Fedorov 6, Olivier Poirot 1, Matthieu Legendre 1, Sébastien Santini 1, Chantal Abergel 1 , 5 and Jean-Michel Claverie 1,*


  1. 1  IGS, Information Génomique & Structurale (UMR7256), Institut de Microbiologie de la Méditerranée 7 (FR 3489), Institut Microbiologie, Bioénergies et Biotechnologie, and Institut Origines, CNRS, Aix Marseille 8 University, Marseille, 13288, France 9
  2. 2  Department of Molecular Microbiology, Institute of Experimental Medicine, Saint Petersburg, Russia, 10 Department of Epidemiology, Parasitology and Disinfectology, Northwestern State Medical Mechnikov 11 University, Saint Petersburg, 195067, Russia 12
  3. 3  Permafrost Research Section, Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, 13 14473, Potsdam, Germany 14
  4. 4  Institute of Geosciences, University of Potsdam, 14478 Potsdam, Germany. 15
  5. 5  Laboratory of theriology, Zoological Institute of Russian Academy of Science, St. Petersburg, 199034, 16 Russia. 17
  6. 6  Melnikov Permafrost Institute, 677010 Yakutsk, Russia 18 19

# These authors contributed equally. 20 Correspondence:; Tel.: +33 413946777 21

Abstract: One quarter of the Northern hemisphere is underlain by permanently frozen ground, re- 22 ferred to as permafrost. Due to climate warming, irreversibly thawing permafrost is releasing or- 23 ganic matter frozen for up to a million years, most of which decomposes into carbon dioxide and 24 methane, further enhancing the greenhouse effect. Part of this organic matter also consists of revived 25 cellular microbes (prokaryotes, unicellular eukaryotes) as well as viruses that remained dormant 26 since prehistorical times. While the literature abounds on descriptions of the rich and diverse pro- 27 karyotic microbiomes found in permafrost, no additional report about “live” viruses have been pub- 28 lished since the two original studies describing pithovirus (in 2014) and mollivirus (in 2015). This 29 wrongly suggests that such occurrences are rare and that “zombie viruses” are not a public health 30 threat. To restore an appreciation closer to reality, we report the preliminary characterizations of 13 31 new viruses isolated from 7 different ancient Siberian permafrost samples, 1 from the Lena river 32 and 1 from Kamchatka cryosol. As expected from the host specificity imposed by our protocol, these 33 viruses belong to 5 different clades infecting Acanthamoeba spp. but not previously revived from 34 permafrost: pandoravirus, cedratvirus, megavirus, and pacmanvirus, in addition to a new pithovi- 35 rus strain.

Read more:

Given our ancestors survived 10s of thousands of years of close contact with living mammoths, and millennia of melting ice after the end of the last ice age, I think we’ve already been exposed to pretty much everything mammoths have to offer.

I suggest genetically enhanced viruses being grown in Chinese laboratories with allegedly lax biosecurity are more of a threat to global health, than the risk from a reindeer herder stubbing his toe on a dead mammoth.

via Watts Up With That?

May 9, 2023 at 12:57PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s