(ORDO NEWS) — Chinese biologists are exploring the Tibetan ice sheet. In their opinion, unknown bacteria from melting glaciers can pose a danger to all mankind.
Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences have discovered about 1,000 species of bacteria in snow and ice samples collected from Tibet’s glaciers.
In their paper, published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, the group describes their concerns about the spread of disease as glaciers melt.
There is something to fear
Under the influence of climate change, glaciers are melting, releasing everything that has been encased in ice for thousands of years.
In the new work, the researchers tested whether the types of bacteria found in snow and ice can reach other regions.
From 2010 to 2016, snow and ice samples were collected from 21 glaciers in Tibet. They found 968 unique bacterial species, 98 percent of which had never been seen before.
Recently, another team of scientists discovered a 15,000-year-old group of viruses in ice. Most of them have never met before.
The problem with bacteria and viruses is that they can be infectious to animals and humans. In the process of evolution, a person acquired immunity to various microorganisms, and even created a symbiosis with some, coexisting with them and benefiting.
However, many of these bacteria died out (and remained only in the ice) so long ago that the immune system simply will not know how to deal with them.
As snow and ice melt, they can move with water into rivers and streams, spread further, multiply, settle down with animals, and from them, with people.
Scientists have already begun work on microbes that will soon be released from glaciers around the world to see if there is a threat.
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