Hundreds of new bacteria are awakening in Tibet

The breakage of a Himalayan glacier in 2021 caused a landslide that resulted in dozens of deaths and injuries.  Now the threat is another.

The breakage of a Himalayan glacier in 2021 caused a landslide that resulted in dozens of deaths and injuries. Now the threat is another.
Photo: AP Images (AP)

A team of researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences set out to collect water samples from glaciers that are melting in Tibet as a result of global warming. In those samples they have found 968 different types of bacteria. 82% are completely new.

The results of that study have just been published in Nature Biotechnology, and they do not bode well for our species. Until now it was thought that the ice of glaciers was too extreme an environment to support life, but the reality is quite different. turns out hehe rivers of ice that cover 10% of the planet’s surface are a time capsule that houses thousands of microorganisms. Global warming is opening that capsule and no one knows for sure what can come out of it.

The high temperatures in the Tibetan plain are not only forcing relocate base camp from which expeditions to Everest depart. They are also releasing thousands of microorganisms into the ecosystem that had been hibernating in the ice for hundreds or thousands of years. “Microbes, both new and old, trapped in the ice can give rise to local epidemics or even pandemics,” warn the authors of the study.. “Is about microorganism that can introduce new infectious factors into the ecosystem for both plants and animals or humans”.

The main concern of researchers is the possible horizontal transmission of these microorganisms through their genetic material. “The virulent factors of this microbial community can be transmitted horizontally through genetic factors. The interaction between the water of these glaciers and modern microorganisms is particularly dangerous and its potential health risks must be evaluated”.

It is not just an issue that affects mountaineers who venture into these regions. The water from these glaciers is the birthplace of several rivers that supply highly populated areas, including the Yangtze or the Ganges. A hitherto unknown pathogen could very well move from Tibet to these regions simply by following the flow of water.[[Nature Biotechnology via IFL Science]

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