Locked away in frigid Arctic soils and riverbeds is a world teeming with ancient microbes. Bacteria and viruses that existed thousands of years ago are frozen in time inside prehistoric layers of permafrost.
Warming temperatures could cause much of the ice to melt and unleash these microbes from their frosty prisons. Once free, unknown pathogens could infect humans or other animals.
“The risk is bound to increase in the context of global warming, in which permafrost thawing will keep accelerating, and more people will populate the Arctic,” Jean-Michel Claverie, a computational biologist at Aix-Marseille University in France who studies ancient and exotic viruses, told CNN.
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