Climate and Environment

15 Nov 2021

Melting Permafrost Could Release Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria and Viruses

Melting Permafrost Could Release Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria and Viruses

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New research has revealed that release of methane gas due to thawing permafrost is not the only worrying factor here, a number of other serious health threats could be coming our way.

The rapidly melting permafrost could likely unleash antibiotic-resistant bacteria and viruses which have been lying dormant in the frozen ice for millions of years. The permafrost is also home to radioactive waste which was left discarded after the world war in the past century.

Permafrost is typically found in the northern hemisphere and covers a frozen land area of 23 million square kilometers. Scientists have calculated that the permafrost could be around a million years old, depending upon its depth. With the current rate of rising temperatures and global warming, the permafrost could melt away up to two-thirds of its total area by the year 2100.

Scientists have found over 11 variations of microorganisms in Siberia’s permafrost which have shown resistant to antibiotics. Other risks pointed out by scientists include the by-products of fossil fuels and metal deposits which can lead to contamination of water as well as land.

Diego Fernandez from ESA stated, “Research being conducted as part of the ESA-NASA Arctic Methane and Permafrost Challenge within our science for society program is vital to understanding the science of the changing arctic. Thawing permafrost clearly poses huge challenges, but more research is needed. NASA and ESA are joining forces to foster scientific collaboration across the Atlantic to ensure we develop solid science and knowledge so that decision-makers are armed with the correct information to help address these issues.