Thawing of frozen landscapes has the potentional to unleash infectious “zombie viruses” that have been locked underground for thousands of years. One quarter of the Northern hemisphere has permanently frozen ground beneath it, and is facing irreversible thawing due to the climate crisis. This decomposing landscape releases carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, adding more heat to the planet.
The new study looked at samples collected from permafrost in the Russian province of Siberia. From these, scientists were able to awaken 13 new viruses which they labelled “zombie viruses” – including one which remained infectious after more than 48,500 years in deep permafrost.

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