Recent publications suggest that a warmer Arctic could increase the danger of “viral spillover” by exposing viruses to new settings and hosts. Humans, animals, plants, and fungi are all hosts for various viruses, and occasionally a virus can jump to a new host since it has no immunity to it. This was the case with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Researchers in Canada were interested in seeing if they might learn anything about the potential effects of climate change on spillover risk by analyzing samples from the arctic region around Lake Hazen. Even though it was spring in Canada in May, the study team still had to shovel snow and drill through two meters of ice to collect samples from the lakebed and the soil that transforms into a riverbed for melting glacier water in the northern summer. The dirt from the lake was hauled out of the water using ropes and a snowmobile, and then sequenced for DNA and RNA.
Spillover danger is directly associated with the analysis’s finding of significant variations among viruses and hosts in the lakebed. Researchers hypothesize that this is due to water erosion of the topsoil, destroying organisms and restricting contact between viruses and possible new hosts, making the difference less pronounced in riverbeds.
Instead, they are washed into the lake, which has seen a significant alteration in recent years due to the sedimentation brought in by water from melting glaciers, as reported by the study.
The study’s authors stress they are not predicting a real spread or a global epidemic. They also caution that further research is needed to determine how much variation exists between viruses and hosts in order to pose a significant danger of spillover. However, they contend that dangers could rise even further if additional potential hosts moved into previously inhospitable locations as a result of climate change.
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