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Viruses And Bacteria Trapped In Ice Come Alive As Climate Warms

By Brian Spaen

The rapid increase in climate change continues to offer up more negatives. Examples include changing normal weather patterns and fueling stronger hurricanes. Now it could be the cause of an increase in pathogens that have been trapped in ice, according to recent studies.

Last August, an anthrax outbreak decimated the animals and inhabitants of a small location in Siberia. Thousands of reindeer died from the disease, and it was them that spread it into civilization. Most people were affected, with 20 needing to be hospitalized, and one casualty of a 12-year-old boy.

A link to global warming was made when the outbreak was traced back to what was permafrost in the location. The disease was contained in frozen soil due to the rotting of an infected animal. Inside permafrost, any kind of bacteria, virus, fungus, and other types of nastiness can thrive. 

Biologist Jean-Michel Claverie explained to BBC Earth how this was the case, saying, "Permafrost is a very good preserver of microbes and viruses, because it is cold, there is no oxygen, and it is dark...Pathogenic viruses that can infect humans or animals might be preserved in old permafrost layers, including some that have caused global epidemics in the past."