Thawing of Siberian permafrost is likely to increase anthrax and prehistoric diseases

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Ttoday, the positions of the tombs are kept secret because they are closed to the public.

"Why increase the phobia on these animal cemeteries?", Explained Kershengolts.

But more than a third of the 13,885 cattle cemeteries in Russia failed to meet health standards, according to a 2009 state report.

As the permafrost thaws, the water flows through it more easily, taking away the spores to potentially infect new victims.

When anthrax expert Vasily Seliverstov arrived to respond to the outbreak of Yamal, she encountered dispersions of dead reindeer lying "in a chain" several miles long along the migratory route of the afflicted herd.

He blames the drought of summer. While rainfall is increasing elsewhere, it is actually decreasing in the northernmost area of ​​the tundra.

Anthrax spores have been washed into the silt of one of the small lakes that dot the marshy tundra, Mr. Seliverstov believes. When the water dried up, the hungry reindeer could have come to graze on the anthrax-infected grass that grew in its place.

"In the cursed fields, with all these lakes, the probability that the animals are infected is quite high during a dry summer," he said.

The threat of anthrax spreading from cattle graves must also be better monitored, he added.

Yakutia has more similar sites than any other region. A 2011 study found that there were more outbreaks of anthrax in the districts where heating was the largest, killing 21 people between 1949 and 1996.

Other diseases could be waiting. The researchers found smallpox DNA fragments on bodies in the Russian permafrost and RNA from the 1918 Spanish influence in Alaska.

Some even fear that those involved in the trade in Yakutia woolly mammoth tusks may collect "paleo-pathogens" – prehistoric diseases that humans may never have encountered – after live bacteria were found in frozen mammoth remains for 20,000 years.

A 2014 study also uncovered old viruses from the Siberian permafrost and scientists managed to revive a bacterium 8 million years ago from Antarctic ice.

Mr. Kershengolts fears that the disease may spread beyond the far north in light of the mysterious craters believed to be caused by the explosion of methane hydrates.

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