Climate change may increase the risk of viruses becoming capable of infecting new hosts in the Arctic, suggests a study of genetic material from a Canadian lake.
Canadian scientists found that an increase in glacier melt at Lake Hazen, the Arctic’s largest lake by volume, was linked to a greater risk of viral spillover, where a virus infects a new host for the first time. Melting glaciers were considered a proxy of climate change, which is causing their retreat globally.
The team from the University of Ottawa, gathered soil and sediment from the lake and sequenced the RNA and DNA in the samples. The researchers found signatures of viruses and their potential hosts including animals, plants and fungi. They then ran an algorithm recently developed by a different research team, which assesses the chance of coevolution or symbiosis among unrelated groups of organisms. The main finding is that the spillover risk increases with the melting of glaciers.
The threat of diseases emerging from the Arctic due to a warming world came to the fore in 2016 with a deadly anthrax outbreak in people in Siberia linked to the thawing of frozen ground uncovering a long-dead infected reindeer.
Source: Le Figaro