A new study suggests that the next viral pandemic could emerge from the Arctic, amid the melting of glaciers caused by the climate changesincreasing the risks of a “next” Ebola, flu or SARS-CoV-2 arriving earlier than predicted by experts, a new study indicates.
In an attempt to identify viruses present in the environment, researchers analyzed sediments from Lake Hazen, a freshwater lake in the northern part of Ellesmere Island in Canada (north of the Arctic Circle). Scientists sequenced segments of DNA and RNA found in the soil and used a computer algorithm to understand how the viruses are related to the animal, plant and fungal hosts present in the area. After the analysis, the team learned about the risk of “viral spillover”.
The risk is basically the ability of viruses to reach new host species and eventually continue to spread – similar to what the world saw during the initial spread of the Covid-19 virus.
In an article published in the scientific journal “Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences“, the researchers wrote: “The risk of overflow increases with runoff from melting glaciers, intensified by climate change. In the north, the High Arctic could become a breeding ground for emerging pandemics.”
The researchers also compared the evolutionary path of viruses and hosts. They sought to find out what are the variations and similarities between the two. The comparison can help experts understand the possibility of a change in the status quo and subsequent viral spillover, analyzes the Guardian.
“From an evolutionary perspective, viruses are more likely to infect hosts phylogenetically close to their natural host, potentially because it is easier to infect and colonize genetically similar species,” the researchers wrote in the paper.
In the study, scientists recall, for example, an outbreak of anthrax – a serious infectious disease caused by a bacteria – recorded in 2016 in northern Siberia, which killed one child and infected at least seven other people and was attributed to a wave of infections. heat that melted the permafrost and exposed an infected reindeer carcass. Before that, the last outbreak in the region had been in 1941.