About a thousand species of unique bacteria have been discovered by bewildered scientists from glaciers in Tibet which could cause epidemic and even pandemic in populous India and China. According to scientists, some of these bacteria and viruses can be infectious for animals and humans, and as snow and ice melt due to climate change, they can get into rivers and streams in populated areas with water.
“And perhaps even more of a problem may be that modern plants and animals, including humans, are not immune to old microbes, which suggests they can be deadly and difficult to treat. Thus, they represent the possibility of local epidemics and possibly pandemics,” they said.
The researchers note that the bacteria they studied came from a particularly important part of the world – melting snow and ice in Tibet feeds several rivers that lead to densely populated areas in China and India.
The scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences have discovered nearly 1,000 species of bacteria in snow and ice samples collected from Tibetan glaciers. Ice sheets and glaciers cover approximately 10% of the Earth’s surface and also serve as the largest reservoir of fresh water. Scientists collected snow and ice samples from 21 glaciers in Tibet in 2010-2016, melted them down and tested them to see what was left in the water.“In doing so, the researchers found 968 unique bacterial species, 98% of which have never been seen before.
The results come following a study by another team that recently discovered several viruses in 15,000-year-old ice, most of which have never been seen before. “, the scientists say. In this regard, experts propose to immediately begin work on the study of microbes that can spread from glaciers around the world. The team then sequenced the DNA of the microscopic organisms locked inside the ice, creating a massive database of microbe genomes that they named the Tibetan Glacier Genome and Gene (TG2G) catalog.
It is the first time that a microbial community hidden within a glacier has been genetically sequenced. More surprisingly, around 98% of those species were completely new to science. This level of microbial diversity was unexpected because of the challenges associated with living inside glaciers, the researchers said.
Despite extreme environmental conditions, such as low temperatures, high levels of solar radiation, periodic freeze-thaw cycles and nutrient limitation, the surfaces of glaciers support a diverse array of life, the scientists said.
Source: Himalayan News Chronicle