Will Society Be Infected with Prehistoric Diseases?


Permafrost is a layer of frozen soil that acts like a giant freezer, in that it keeps microbes, carbon, and soil locked in place. While the effects of climate change have been publicized for years, the changes are proving to be more dramatic in the Arctic, as it is warming twice as fast as the global average.

Climate change is causing the permafrost to melt, raising concerns about the release of gases into the atmosphere that could quicken the rate of global warming. Researchers also warn that this matter is full of bacteria and viruses that could re-infect humanity. While some of these microbes are familiar, researchers are extremely concerned about the unfamiliar ones.

In lights of this news, we asked doctors, “Do you think we are prepared for such diseases to re-enter society?”

Out of the 2606 physicians from 48 countries who responded, 67 percent responded “No, we are not prepared.”

“If pathogenic bacteria or viruses emerge from the permafrost, humans will not benefit from acquired immunity over the centuries, and it is very likely that some of these previously unknown germs are problematic during their invasion period without current treatment.”  – General Practice, France

“We need to be concerned with more than just their pathogenicity to humans – they might be pathogenic to any modern species, and if they were, the concern is that they are not prepared to deal with it, since they have not been exposed in a while.” – Hematology Oncology, US 

“We are not prepared, the human being every day worsens their lifestyle causing a hemodynamic imbalance which makes us more vulnerable to any pathogen that reappears in the environment around us!”  –  General Practice, Venezuela

“We are not prepared … probably they are unknown bacteria for us and even other microorganisms to which we have never been exposed, so we would be very vulnerable. Additionally we do not know if our antibiotics will be effective against these.”  – General Practice, Argentina

However, 33 percent of physicians did feel that we’re prepared for such events:

“In evolutionary principle, these microbes should be less evolved, simpler versions or precursor versions to modern microbes. Our immune systems may be able to smite them without even generating a fever.”  – Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine, US

The poll was fielded in January of 2017. 2,606 physicians responded to the poll. The margin of error for the global poll was ±2%. More information about SERMO polling methodology can be found here.

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