The melting of the permafrost and the wholesale eradication of rain forests are releasing long-dormant viruses, and Covid-19 is only one of them.

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“Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2” by NIAID is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This is still just the first wave of newly released ancient viruses. There will be more. Many more.

There are two studies that I have excerpted from the National Institutes of Health, in the 1st one I’m quoting 9 excerpts regarding the melting polar caps due to global warming and effects on other ecosystems; while the second study covering rainforest destruction has 3 excerpts.
Two teams of researchers published papers that I am quoting in this paper and scientist-authors from the publication The Scientist have also been quoted.

Your potato chips are at fault for this virus outbreak. I’ll tell you what I mean as I get into this.

POLAR CAPS AND RAINFORESTS

US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health — Article dated Oct of 2017 entitled: Back to the future in a petri dish: Origin and impact of resurrected microbes in natural populations — by Shira Houwenhuyse, etal

Nine excerpts:

Here’s what the researchers had to say.

1
“Pathogens tend to be locally and temporally adapted to their co‐occurring hosts, but when pathogens from a different environment or different time enter the host community, the degree to which a new host–pathogen interaction is a threat will depend on the specific genotypic associations, the time lag between the host and the pathogen, and the interactions with native or recent host and pathogen species.”

2
“Human health can also be impacted by these resurrected pathogens as the majority of emerging infectious diseases are zoonoses, which are infectious diseases originating from animal populations naturally transmitted to humans. The sanitary risk associated with pathogen emergence from different environments (spatial or temporal) depends on a combination of socioeconomic, environmental, and ecological factors that affect the virulence or the pathogenic potential of microbes and their ability to infect susceptible host populations.”

3
“Recent work in the field of resurrection ecology has indicated that long‐dormant microbes can be revived, even after millions of years. The purpose of this review was to focus on the potential for revival of long‐dormant microbial pathogens. In particular, we examined the risk of re‐emergence of ancient microbes from research facilities and ice sheet and permafrost…”

4
“Ancient — but still potentially infectious — viruses or microbes remain widely disseminated among research and diagnostic facilities around the world. Despite the rigorous biosafety conditions that such laboratories have to respect, the risk for pathogen release into susceptible animal populations still exists.”

5
“In 2003, a SARS virus escaped from a level 3 laboratory in Singapore;
In 2007, a biosecurity breach resulted in an outbreak of foot‐and‐mouth diseases among cattle in the United Kingdom”

6
“The risk associated with the study of ancient pathogens comes not only from frozen pathogenic strains kept in the laboratory, but also from the publication of the genome sequence of such pathogens and their potential reconstruction. For example, the genome sequence of the 1918 Spanish influenza virus, a deadly virus that killed 50 million people worldwide, was reconstructed from viral RNA retrieved from preserved tissues of victims who succumbed in 1918. A series of experiments was then conducted to study the virulence of the virus in vitro and in animal models, using viral constructs containing the 1918 genes. In stark contrast to contemporary human influenza H1N1 viruses, the 1918 pandemic virus was found to be extremely virulent, causing 100% death in mice and displaying a high‐growth phenotype in human bronchial epithelial cells.”

7
“While some researchers point out that such studies provide key novel insights into the virus biology and pathogenesis, important information about how to prevent and control future pandemics is still lacking. Resurrected pathogens from the past and emerging pathogens due to spatial invasion are both a source of new host–pathogen interactions. In both cases, the outcome of these new interactions is unpredictable. Temporal or spatial invasion of non‐native pathogens can have devastating consequences for plants, animals, or humans.”

8
“Another potential threat for humans is mosquito‐borne diseases. Aedes aegypti is a mosquito that acts as a vector for viruses, for example, causing Zika, dengue, and chikungunya. Over a million people die each year from these diseases. The changing distribution of vectors and vectored pathogens is a new global health threat. Although the mosquito is of African origin, it has dispersed to tropical and subtropical areas outside of Africa. Changing climate has facilitated its dispersal to new areas that were previously uninhabitable. This mosquito is now more widely dispersed than at any point in the past and will spread rapidly throughout the world in the near future, as the planet continues to warm.” More on this in a minute.

9
“Analysis suggests that melting of polar ice in the geological past may have provided a conduit for large‐scale lateral gene transfer, potentially scrambling microbial phylogenies and accelerating the tempo of microbial evolution. Remarkably, genes encoding resistance against natural or modern semisynthetic antibiotics, as well as mobile elements participating in their horizontal transfer, were found in bacterial strains isolated from Siberian and Antarctic permafrost grounds, dating from 5,000 to 30,000 years ago.”

IT IS DEEP IN THE ICE WHERE THE VIRUS LAYS DORMANT

RAINFORESTS

US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health — Article dated June of 2011 entitled: An Insect Nidovirus Emerging from a Primary Tropical Rainforest — by Florian Zirkel, etal

Remember, it was rainforests that were the birthplace of such viruses as Zika, Chikungunya, Ebola and Dengue. Recent data shows that insectivorous bats were the likely source of Ebola.

Three points:

Here is what this other team of researchers had to say.

1
“Many synanthropic species (i.e., species, animals, or plants that live near humans), such as rodents, birds, bats, and certain other mammal species, have been shown to carry zoonotic pathogens and in some cases act as reservoir hosts for these pathogens. Anthropogenic pressures associated with urbanization often bring these species into closer contact with livestock and humans and thus favor disease emergence.”

2
“Tropical rainforests comprise the highest level of terrestrial biodiversity. Microbes are dependent on their hosts, and hot spots of host biodiversity may also be rich in pathogen diversity. Intensive land use changes in West African rainforests began in the 1960s by industrial deforestation, leaving only remnants of the equatorial forest belt. Patches of forest are typically surrounded by agricultural land and human settlements. Logging is linked to a profound decline in biodiversity. Declines in biodiversity are associated with an increased risk of infectious disease.”

And finally…

3
“We also identified short sequence fragments of an unusual virus in insects that was distantly related to coronaviruses.”

From an article in The Scientist, dated January 29th, 2019, entitled Deforestation Tied to Changes in Disease Dynamics — by Katarina Zimmer,

“When a malaria outbreak erupted in Malaysian Borneo in 2002, researchers were surprised to find that the culprit wasn’t Plasmodium malariae, the main mosquito-borne parasite known to infect humans in the area. Instead, the parasite’s DNA turned out to stem from P. knowlesi, colloquially known as “monkey malaria,” which is specialized to infect and proliferate in forest-dwelling macaques. A few accidental cases had been recorded in people over the years, but such an outbreak was unusual. And it didn’t stop there: P. knowlesi has since become the most common cause of malaria in Malaysia, and human infections are steadily rising throughout Southeast Asia. It’s one of several instances of vector-borne pathogens that have popped up in humans in areas that are undergoing widespread deforestation. The forests of Borneo are being felled at a rapid rate, foremost to make way for palm oil plantations. Researchers have long suspected that the process may play a role in human outbreaks of vector-borne diseases, including malaria, dengue, and others, and evidence is increasingly mounting in support of that idea.”

Almost all producers of potato chips and similar snacks, as well as a host of other foods, use palm oil in their process. Palm oil isn’t required, but it is very cheap. Palm oil plantations pull all the shallow-rooted rainforest trees out of the ground or burn them and then plant palms in the exposed soils. The soil isn’t suited to this new agricultural use, often resulting in only one growing season before growers having to clear more trees. And so on, and so on.

IT IS IN THOSE NEWLY EXPOSED ROOT SYSTEMS WHERE THE VIRUSES LAY DORMANT

Also from The Scientist is an article dated May 31, 2018, entitled Predicting Future Zoonotic Disease Outbreaks — by Ashley Yeager,
“Researchers estimate that 631,000 to 827,000 unidentified viruses exist that have zoonotic potential.”

“More than 6 out of 10 known infectious diseases and 3 out of 4 new or emerging infectious diseases are spread to humans from other animals, including livestock and wildlife, according to estimates published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”

“Down a dirt path outside of the village of Meliandou in Guinea once stood a tall, hollow tree where children used to play. Not anymore. This tree, now notorious as the potential starting point of the deadly Ebola outbreak that ripped through West Africa a few years ago, was burned after the disease sickened and killed hundreds of people over a four-month period. More than 10,000 ultimately succumbed to the disease between 2014 and 2016.

In April 2014, just a few months after the outbreak began, epidemiologist Fabian Leendertz of the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin and his colleagues went on a month-long expedition in southeastern Guinea to identify the source of the epidemic, which was suspected to have jumped from animals to humans. Fairly quickly, the team ruled out apes and other large animals as the zoonotic host for this Ebola outbreak. Numbers of grazing animals in West Africa appeared unaffected, and great ape populations may have actually increased, as the outbreak raced through Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

Another possibility that Leendertz and his team considered was bats. Local children commonly hunted the flying mammals, the scientists learned. In time, Meliandou villagers told Leendertz and his colleagues about the tree. Children had been seen catching bats in its hollow trunk. The villagers led the scientists down the dusty path to show them what was left of it, describing how the sky “rained” bats as the tree became engulfed in flames. Sure enough, when Leendertz’s team collected soil samples from below the tree’s charred trunk, the researchers recovered DNA that belonged to Mops condylurus, an insectivorous bat species.

The evidence seemed to point to bats as the source of Ebola, Leendertz says. Emile Ouamouno, a two-year-old considered to have been patient zero in the outbreak, died a few days after contracting a fever, and probably got infected with the virus while playing with bats in the tree, he adds, “but we have no scientific proof.” Indeed, the ultimate source of the outbreak remains a mystery — as is the case for many so-called zoonotic diseases.”

So, in conclusion, deforestation is releasing viruses from the disturbed root systems of the rainforests and global warming is melting the ice fields and permafrost, allowing ancient and dormant viruses to escape. Human exploitation of the planet is releasing all manner of microbial life upon us that we have never seen and have no idea how to defend against.

So, have some more snacks. Use some more fossil fuels. What could possibly go wrong?

More info here:
https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2017/02/14/511227050/why-killer-viruses-are-on-the-rise
https://www.the-scientist.com/features/predicting-future-zoonotic-disease-outbreaks-64257
https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/deforestation-tied-to-changes-in-disease-dynamics-65406
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5748525/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3111606/

Producer and Writer of the online radio show Forbidden America. Writing an online TV interview show set for production in 2021. An emerging Voice-Over Talent.

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