Scientists Discover 48,500-Year-Old 'Zombie Virus' in Siberian Permafrost

Photo: nypost

The Facts

  • A team of international scientists from France, Russia, and Germany have revived a so-called "zombie virus" from thawing permafrost in Siberia. The team uncovered 13 new viruses from seven different samples, one of which had been dormant under the ice for nearly 50K years.

  • The oldest zombie virus — Pandoravirus yedoma — is the oldest frozen virus to be returned to an infectious state. The discovery raised some fear of a COVID-type pandemic as scientists claim the virus remains infectious despite spending many millennia trapped in permafrost or permanently-frozen ground.

The Spin

Narrative A

This newly-found zombie virus could be the tip of a metaphoric epidemiological iceberg. The Earth is warming, permafrost is melting, and lethal viruses are being discovered. It is time to act before a wave of climate-catalyzed pandemics washes over humanity thanks to the damage that's been done to the melting Arctic.

Narrative B

There is no evidence yet that Arctic zombie viruses have the potential to be infectious or could pose a health risk. Instead of alarmist preparations for an imminent apocalypse, it’s more sensible to study viral genomes, develop vaccines, and treat critical patients in a rational, thoughtful manner based on proven threats.

Nerd narrative

There's a 10% chance that there will be a novel pathogen that kills over 25 million people between 2022 and 2031 (inclusive), according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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