Global Warming Unleashing Deadly Pathogens

We have all heard of the global warming phenomenon around the world and the impacts it has on our health… but what if I told you that the rapid acceleration of warmer temperatures on Earth has been reviving deadly pathogens?

As endless reports about climate change emerge and continue to threaten the existence of the Earth through sea-level rise and extreme weather events, a new scientific discovery has set the world on edge; the resurgence of deadly pathogens (viruses).

I’m afraid to say that the terror associated with deadly pathogens that we thought were long-gone for thousands of years, have in fact come back to haunt us.

Shocked face at the thought of deadly pathogens being revived. Image credit: 20131024/uf/thumb_477526.jpeg by afromztoa via Flickr

 

We have been rid of these pathogens for years, so how is this possible? The fault is ours. Our actions have caused climate change, unleashing unwanted consequences.

 

How did this happen?

Unknown bacteria and viruses that have been dormant for many thousands of years are coming back to life due to global warming. They have been trapped in permafrost (ice), which has been protecting us from exposure. We all know that global warming is the heating of the Earth’s surface, atmosphere and oceans. As this warming has increased rapidly in the last decade, it has melted the permafrost grounds that have kept ancient pathogens at bay. The last few years of rapid temperature rise has melted this permafrost, releasing ancient pathogens and infecting both humans and animals in the most dangerous way possible… death.

Frozen permafrost soil is the perfect place for bacteria to remain alive for very long periods of time, perhaps as long as a million years, as it is cold and dark with no oxygenbiologist Jean-Michel Claverie told the BBC in a report published by them. As climate change is exposing older permafrost layers more frequently unleashing a Pandora’s box of diseases.

Over time, pathogens have evolved antibiotic resistance and affected human health greatly even more greatly now than in the past. As soul-crushing as this is to hear, how do we know this is indeed true?

 

Should we be ready for worse to come?

Anthrax had been revived through reindeers. Image credit: Caribous on a frozen lake by peupleloup via Flickr

 

The same BBC report has stated that this time last year in the Yamal Peninsula in the Arctic Circle, which is warming 3 times faster than the rest of the world, 2000 reindeers were infected, 20 people were injured and hospitalised and 1 boy died from an outbreak of anthrax. Anthrax had been trapped in the frozen layer of soil 75 years ago and was revived due to an infected frozen reindeer corpse and a heatwave that occurred last summer in 2016, creating this catastrophic event. The infectious anthrax pathogen was released into nearby soil and water and then ultimately ended up in the food supply of that town.

To make you even more frightened – a paper published in 2014 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, revealed that a ‘giant-virus’ named ‘Pithovirus sibericum’ (a real tongue-twister) was revived in a 30,000-year-old piece of Siberian permafrost and was still… drumroll… infectious to animals.

This poses a threat for smallpox and other deadlier pathogens lurking in the ice waiting to be uncovered… presenting a recipe for disaster. It is to be noted that the risk of an outbreak is low but nonetheless, the possibility of these pathogens being revived is still a chilling thought.

 

More links for readers:

 

 


5 Responses to “Global Warming Unleashing Deadly Pathogens”

  1. Raveena Grace says:

    I agree Hockey, It’s hard to think of solutions as to how to break free of this vicious cycle, as it is caused by climate change which is hard for the world to mitigate against. The biggest would be leaning on policy-makers to ensure they are leading in climate change mitigation and making sure we are all doing our own part too in emission reductions.

    I understand daweiw1, there are a couple of scientific studies on this topic which I will post as additional links for interested readers.

  2. daweiw1 says:

    I think it’s good to get people be aware of the serious consequence may cause by climate change and improve our living style to be more eco-friendly. However, in my opinion, we should also be aware of the source of these kind of information. For example, I trust the original papers from NCBI than BBC reports (which sometimes have biased and overly subjective opinions especially on topic like climate change which is becoming more and more political than scientific recent years).

  3. Hockey says:

    Melissa you are certainly correct – melting permafrost releases carbon into the atmosphere. Carbon, in the form of methane and carbon dioxide, contributes to climate change by trapping infrared radiation in the lower atmosphere. This radiation provides warmth by blanketing the earth.
    Hence, this may become a vicious cycle. Climate change liquefies of permafrost. Melted permafrost liberates carbon into the atmosphere, and carbon contributes to climate change.

    This cycle has now revived dormant pathogens that are threats to biodiversity.
    How do we break free?

  4. Raveena Grace says:

    I agree Melissa, such a scary thought that climate change could cause such a thing

  5. Melissa Yoon says:

    Geez – yet another reason why climate change is the worst! I thought melting permafrost was only bad for releasing methane but apparently not