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Influenza is hiding in the pole

An Israeli initiative, American equipment and samples from northern Siberia are disease-causing viruses, such as influenza, that have been preserved in the Arctic ice and may in the future cause new epidemics

A study initiated by an Israeli scientist gave birth to a three-way collaboration with scientists in the USA and Russia, to identify viruses, disease-causing agents in humans, that were preserved frozen in the ice, in the Arctic region, near the North Pole.
The assumption: There may be among them unknown versions of influenza viruses - the virulent A strain - against which there is no vaccine and which may emerge from the frozen state and cause a widespread epidemic (pandemic).

Virus A, for example, caused the "Spanish flu" in 1918, which killed, according to estimates, about 100 million people in the world. In addition to the flu viruses, other violent viruses may also be preserved in the ice, which the researchers will try to isolate.

The initiative was decided a few days ago in Oregon, USA, at an international conference that dealt with "life in the ancient ice", which was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) of the USA. Dr. Dan Shoham from Bar-Ilan University lectured at the conference about disease-causing viruses that were preserved frozen in the eternal ice.

Certain frozen life forms, he explained, can be revived even after their "evolutionary clock" has stopped; And others maintain within the ice - we discovered only recently - metabolic processes and culture, despite the frozen environment.

Following Dr. Shoham's report, it was agreed that ice samples from northern Siberia would be sent in sealed containers to the laboratory of Dr. Scott Rogers from Bowling Green State University, Ohio, USA - which is equipped with appropriate equipment for the unique research .

Dr. Shoham: "This is a very young field in science. So far, findings have been accumulated on microorganisms - bacteria, algae, fungi; And with a high probability, the same is true of viruses - which have the ability to preserve their life, inside the ice, without time limit. In several laboratories, non-disease-causing bacteria, which were frozen in ice millions of years ago, have been brought back to life."

The researchers claim that nature has a cyclical mechanism of preservation and reemergence of frozen microorganisms. The mechanism is dictated by a leading factor such as temperature changes. Dr. Shoham: "The range of change from freezing to living again is very narrow - only 2 degrees (1 below zero; 1 above zero) - and yet it has been the determining factor, for millions of years. The conclusion from this: it is possible that ancient strains of disease-causing viruses, unknown to us, may one day emerge from the ice and freezing and attack humans - and there is no vaccine for them."

Thus it is now assumed that the smallpox virus was preserved, perhaps, in the ice forever, in the bodies of patients who were buried hundreds of years ago in the permafrost - the frozen lands - in the Arctic countries: Canada, Alaska, Russia (Northern Siberia).
In 1985 and 1998, bodies of smallpox patients were found buried in Canada and Siberia. The idea to try and isolate the virus, from the frozen corpses, arose when a mummified body (mummy) of a person who died in Italy 400 years ago was discovered (in this case they were unable to revive the virus).

Dr. Shoham: "It is known that the virus is preserved for many years, in sealed test tubes, at a temperature of 4 degrees; And in a state of freeze-drying - without a time limit, and it can be revived."

How did influenza viruses reach the arctic regions?

Dr. Shoham: "The hosts of the viruses are waterfowl (which do not get the flu). The viruses multiply in their bodies and are excreted in large quantities in the droppings thrown into the lakes - where the birds go during their seasonal migration for nesting and breeding. This is where the virus preservation phase begins, in ice. The birds arrive in the spring in Siberia - from China; Nesting in the frozen lakes, which have melted. In September, the freezing of the lakes resumes - then the birds return to China. The ice samples that will arrive at the laboratory from the frozen lakes will clarify whether 'young' and 'ancient' viruses have been preserved and what their evolutionary origin is. The hypothesis: this is the mechanism underlying the frequent appearance of violent influenza virus strains, specifically in China."

Also the West Nile virus, which is now threatening to attack Israel again, "catch a ride" on the migratory birds: it is transmitted by mosquitoes that infect the birds as they converge, from east and west in the Northern Hemisphere, to the summer "stopover" in Greenland. The mosquitoes, the carriers of the virus, pass it between them and infect the birds. The viruses are preserved for years in the frozen mosquito eggs, in the lakes.

Birds that returned from Greenland to the USA in 1998 brought with them, for the first time ever, the West Nile virus. Seven people died of this disease in New York. The virus was isolated there from many mosquitoes and crows.

Scientists from the Space Agency (NASA) also participated in the conference in Oregon - since it is now assumed that comets, whose tails contain ice, are used to transfer frozen life forms between the stars.

Dr. Shoham: "The findings support the hypothesis that this is the mechanism that developed in nature on a universal level, for transferring life forms between the stars. Maybe that's how they came from space, to Earth."

by Alex Doron

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