According to reports from Chinese researchers, approximately 900 new bacteria have been discovered in Tibet’s glaciers.
According to a research published in Nature, samples taken from 21 Tibetan Plateau glaciers revealed previously unknown algae, bacteria, fungi, and archaea. The study adds that of the 968 organisms discovered in the region, 98% were totally unknown to science before.
“The surfaces of glaciers support a wide range of life even with extreme environmental conditions such as freezing temperatures, high amounts of solar radiation, frequent freeze-thaw cycles, and nutrient scarcity,” the researchers claimed. The Tibetan Plateau is an extremely high-altitude area located in Asia between the Himalayas and the Taklamakan Desert.
The researchers sequenced the organisms DNA that they discovered in order to construct the Tibetan Glacier Genome and the Gene (TG2G) catalog, according to the research. While it’s impossible to say how long these microorganisms have been frozen in Tibet’s ice, previous research has shown that such lifeforms can survive even after being frozen for at least 10,000 years.
According to a research, the TG2G catalog contains more than 27,000 possible virulence factors (molecules that allow the bacteria to colonize and infect a host). This implies that any melting of the glaciers exposes us to the danger of unleashing an infectious virus into the human species or the fauna and flora we rely on for survival, according to Live Science.
Pathogenic germs trapped in ice may cause localized epidemics and, in extreme cases, pandemics. Another team discovered 33 distinct viruses that live in a single Tibetan glacier in 2020, 28 of which were entirely new to science, according to Live Science.
While it’s uncertain whether the germs could survive thawing, they can move and share substantial portions of their DNA. If any of the newly discovered bacteria come into contact with other modern species, the risk of future plagues might be “particularly severe,” according to the researchers.
The Yangtze River, the Yellow River, and the Ganges River all get their water from glaciers in the Tibetan Plateau, according to Live Science. All three of these rivers feed fresh water into the world’s second-and third-largest populations: India and China, which means that any harmful bacteria entering the waterways has a good chance of spreading pandemics. The only advantage to such rapid glacier melting is that germs and microbes could be utilized in modern medicine, according to researchers.