A thousand microbes, mostly unknown, detected in glaciers: fear of future pandemics?

A thousand microbes, mostly unknown, detected in glaciers: fear of future pandemics?

968 species of microorganisms have been discovered trapped in ice in Tibet. But with global warming, they could break free…

A true scientific epic. A team of Chinese researchers set out to take samples from 21 glaciers in Tibet during several expeditions.

They then analyzed their contents to discover a thousand different microorganisms.

Before proceeding to sequencing the genome of each microbe sampled and identified and the DNA spoke, as reported by Science and Life.

A database called TG2G

Painstaking work that may have cause for concern because of what may result.

The results of the research were thus compiled in a sort of catalog published on June 27 in Nature. Each sequenced species is thus classified by its genome.

This database brings together 968 different species. It was named TG2G for Tibetan Glacier Genome and Gene, (to understand genomes and genes of the Tibetan glacier).

“The TG2G catalog is a valuable resource that allows a better understanding of the structure and functions of Tibetan glacial microbiomes.”

Among these microbes were found bacteria, archaebacteria, microscopic algae and fungi. But above all, 98% of these microbes are unknown to scientists.

Another publication published on July 20, 2021 in BMC had reported a similar discovery of 33 viruses, 28 of which were unknown.

legitimate concerns

Since these microbes are unknown, scientists cannot know if they could be potentially pathogenic.

Indeed, the researchers point out that the analyzes carried out show that the microbes can present a certain danger due to virulence factors. They specify that when these organisms are “released” into the wild with the melting of the ice due to global warming – an inevitable phenomenon – some will “wake up” and be potentially dangerous.

Admittedly, not all of them will survive, but they may also transmit part of their genetic heritage to other organisms.

In short, no one can predict the future, but there is a potential risk of seeing bacteria or viruses being reintroduced into nature and a potential risk of a pandemic, in the face of hitherto unknown organisms…

Especially since the glaciers of Tibet are not the only ones concerned in the world by the melting of the ice…

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