It was a team of researchers from the University of Aix-Marseille who discovered the virus under a frozen lake in Yakutia, Siberia. Disappeared for 48,500 years, the virus is known to infect single-celled organisms.
Professor Jean-Michel Claverie, director of the study, issued a stern warning to the medical authorities. Indeed, he and his team estimate that one-fifth of the land is permanently frozen. Although the currently discovered virus does not appear to pose a threat to humans, thawing it could release a host of deadly microbes that have been dormant for thousands of years. The team’s concern therefore lies in the fact that Russian scientists in search of viruses preserved in the permafrost could accidentally trigger a new pandemic.
The threat of unknown viruses that can be transmitted to humans and can cause large-scale epidemics is known as “disease X”.
“Disease X” is a theoretical concept that refers to a mysterious and hypothetical virus that could, in the future, spread throughout the population and threaten humanity. This “disease X” had been theorized by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and was included two years ago in the list of “international dangers” of the WHO. At the beginning of 2020 and before it spread around the world, WHO experts feared that Covid-19 was “disease X”.
SARS and MRES – two diseases from the same family as Covid-19 – had also been categorized as potential “Disease X”. As well as Ebola or the Zika virus.
Last year, the WHO warned that the next pandemic could have the scale of the Black Death, which killed an estimated 75 million people.