Could Coronavirusses be preserved in Arctic ice?

Being released from the once frozen ground. In the summer of 2016, a group of reindeer herders became ill from a mysterious illness.

Rumours began circling of the “Siberian plague” or Antrax outbreack last seen in 1941. When a young boy and 2,500 reindeer died, the disease was identified: anthrax. Its origin was a defrosting reindeer carcass, a victim of an anthrax outbreak 75 years previously. The 2018 Arctic report card speculates that, “diseases like the Spanish flu, smallpox or the plague that have been wiped out might be frozen in the permafrost.”

A French study in 2014 took a 30,000 year-old virus frozen within permafrost, and warmed it back up in the lab. It promptly came back to life, 300 centuries later. (To read more, see BBC Earth’s piece on the diseases in ice.)

Adding to this apocalyptic vision, in 2016 the Doomsday Vault – a sub-permafrost facility in Arctic Norway, which safeguards millions of crop seeds for perpetuity – was flooded with meltwater. And listed amongst the membership of The Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost, is Swedish Nuclear Waste Management who presumably also rely on a permanently frozen permafrost (when BBC Future approached them for comment on this point, they did not respond).

Long-preserved human archaeology may also be emerging, but just as quickly lost. A frozen Palaeo-Eskimo site in Greenland, preserved for some 4,000 years, is at risk of being decomposed. This is just one of an estimated 180,000 archaeological sites preserved in the permafrost, often with soft tissues and clothing that uniquely remain intact but would rot quickly if exposed. Adam Markham, of the Union of Concerned Scientists has said, “with rapid, human-caused climate change, many sites or the artefacts they contain, will be lost before they have been discovered.”


What is the Coronavirus ancient Pathogen like?

The coronavirus is an RNA virus belonging to the family of Coronaviridae . This family consists of 4 subgroups (α, β, γ and δ). There are six known coronaviruses (CoV) that can cause disease in humans: two alphaviruses (CoV-229E and CoV-OC43) and 4 beta viruses (CoV-NL63, CoV-KU1, SARS-CoV, origin of severe acute respiratory syndrome, and MERS-CoV, origin of Middle East respiratory syndrome).

How can Sars be Transmited?

  1. CoV is transmitted by the infected person by air: through coughing or sneezing, by direct contact (hands) or indirect contact (by touching contaminated objects), followed by contact with the nose, mouth or eyes.
  2. The incubation period ranges from 2 to 5 days.

What are the Clinical manifestations of Sars-Covs?

CoVs are generally found in the human population and induce clinical symptoms ranging from a simple cold to an acute respiratory syndrome.

With the exception of SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, known human CoVs (HCoV) which are currently circulating in humans only induce mild infections of the upper respiratory tract or digestive system. These are most often accompanied by short-term symptoms, such as rhinitis, cough, sore throat or fever.

However, these very common HCoVs can also cause lower respiratory tract infections and possibly pneumonia in very young people, the elderly, and immunocompromised patients.

How works the Epidemiological picture of SARS-CoV?

Coronaviruses (CoV) affect both animals and humans, and generally infect a single specific host species or a group of closely related species. The exception is SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV .

In 2002, the CoV of severe acute respiratory syndrome(SARS or SARS in English) was identified for the first time in Guangdong, China. This virus, which is causing a worldwide epidemic, caused acute atypical pneumonia, breathing difficulties and sometimes digestive problems, even in young, healthy people. Since 2004, no new cases have been reported worldwide, but surveillance is continued. CoV-SARS, which infects both humans and animals (bats, rodents, civets, monkeys, raccoons, etc.), is considered to be a virus of animal origin which, in 2002, crossed the barrier of the species to infect humans. Although the reservoir species is not yet established with certainty, bats are considered to be potential reservoir hosts.

In 2012, the Middle East respiratory syndrome(MERS-CoV, from the English “Middle East respiratory syndrome”) has appeared in Jordan and Saudi Arabia; this virus is still circulating. Like SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV can cause acute lower respiratory infections, but progression to severe disease is more likely in people with pre-existing health conditions, such as immunodeficiency, diabetes, cancer or chronic lung, heart or kidney disease. On average, 30% of confirmed MERS-CoV cases will result in death, but infection often goes unnoticed in healthy patients. Unlike SARS-CoV, human-to-human transmission remains limited in the case of MERS-CoV; few MERS-CoV infections are therefore exported outside the endemic region. The incubation period for MERS-CoV varies between 2 and 14 days. Like SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV is considered a zoonotic infection, the reservoir species being of animal origin. This reservoir species is not yet known with certainty, but potential associations with bats and camels have been reported.

Lieven Gevaert, Bio-engineer in Biology