Researchers warn that the Arctic could unleash the next pandemic – Interesting Engineering
The team then used a computer algorithm to figure out the viral spillover risk. This term refers to the ability for viruses to flood into new host species and keep spreading.
“Spillover risk increases with runoff from glacier melt, a proxy for climate change,” wrote the researchers.
“Should climate change also shift species range of potential viral vectors and reservoirs northwards, the High Arctic could become fertile ground for emerging pandemics.”
The researchers however did note that the risk of such extreme consequences unfolding still remains low. Instead they focused more on providing a new way of determining spillover risk.
“Altogether, we provided here a novel approach to assessing spillover risk. This is not the same as predicting spillovers or even pandemics, first because we rely on known virus/host associations, and also because as long as viruses and their ‘bridge vectors’ are not simultaneously present in the environment, the likelihood of dramatic events probably remains low,” explained the researchers in their paper.
More research needs to be done
Despite that the researchers did indicate that more work needed to be done to monitor the evolution of the Arctics’s melting and the introduction of new potential viruses.
This is especially true if global warming will force populations to move further north to avoid extreme temperatures bringing human beings ever closer to both animal populations and the Arctic sources of new viruses.