Melting Tibetan Glacier Could Spill Never-Seen-Before Microbes in Oceans
Melting glaciers due to global warming could release new pathogens into the environment and spark a new wave of pandemics
A team of researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences has discovered over 900 never-seen-before microbes species in ice and snow samples gathered from Tibetan Plateau. The research paper published in Nature Biotechnology Journal states that the group of these new microbes has the potential to cause new pandemics. The situation would worsen with rapidly melting glacial ice and snow due to global warming. Melting glaciers pose the risk of spilling these locked-up glacial microbes into the oceans.
According to researchers, glaciers and ice sheets cover around 10 percent of the earth’s surface. It even serves as the world’s largest freshwater reservoir. But due to global warming, glacial snow and ice sheets are melting rapidly. So, the new study reveals that the ‘never-seen-before’ ancient microbes called bacteriasicles could also find their way to the freshwater rivers and oceans with melting ice masses.
To find out more, the researchers collected ice and snow samples from around 21 glaciers in Tibet from 2010 to 2016. Each glacier is melting and every sample was tested to observe what’s left behind. While doing so, the researchers discovered 968 unique bacterial species. Around 98 percent of these species were never seen before.
The issue with such bacteria and virus species is that they could lead to unprecedented and incurable infections in humans and animals. As the ice and snow melt, these could travel with water into rivers and other streams into populated areas. The bigger problem could be modern plants, humans, and animals lacking immunity toward ancient microbes. This suggests that these microbes could prove to be deadly and hard to treat. Hence, they possess the chances of local epidemics and risks of new pandemics.
The researchers stated that the collected bacteria they studied about came specifically from the Tibetan Plateau, which is a vital part of the world as it feeds many rivers leading to highly populated regions in India and China. Now, scientists are studying these microbes more to find a solution for the potential threat that they may cause in the future.
Via: Live Science