Scientists fear ‘Factor X Virus’ is about to be unleashed and wipe humanity out

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    Scientists have issued a chilling warning about a mysterious and catastrophic "Factor X" that could be unleashed from the Earth's permafrost.

    Permafrost, which is ground that has been frozen for at least two years, is home to hundreds of thousands of dormant microbial species, and the identity of these microbes remains a mystery.

    Over the past 50 years, the Arctic has been heating up to four times faster than the rest of the world, causing permafrost temperatures to rise by roughly -17C per decade.

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    These frozen soils are teeming with unknown microbes known as extremophiles, which can survive in the harshest conditions and which could now be released due to soaring temps. Some parts of Siberia have been frozen for an astonishing 650,000 years and could release ancient substances into the atmosphere.

    Birgitta Evengard, a professor in infectious disease at Umea University in Sweden, told Newsweek: "There is a lot we don't know, and what very few people have looked into is the permafrost."

    A colleague added that "deep down in the permafrost, there must be microbes – especially viruses but also bacteria that were on Earth long before Homo sapiens existed."

    Boffins fear that viruses from extinct diseases such as smallpox and anthrax, and also the accelerated spread of diseases already known to exist in today's Arctic such as tularemia, a serious bacterial infection, or tick-borne encephalitis could be released.

    In 2014, a team of scientists brought back to life a giant virus that had been frozen in the permafrost. Jean-Michel Claverie, who led the study, told Newsweek: "If amoeba viruses can survive that long in permafrost, this strongly suggests that animal/human-infecting ones could remain infectious in the same condition. In addition, we know that the DNA [of animal/human-infecting viruses] are detected in permafrost."

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    Interestingly, studies have shown that even tiny creatures can be brought back from the permafrost.

    Kimberley Miner, a climate scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab and professor at the Climate Change Institute, explained: "There are a variety of methods including fixing their DNA and lipid membranes [that allow organisms to survive in the permafrost,]".

    "This is true for several microbes that are considered extremophiles-organisms that can survive in extreme temperatures and pressures, including the cold and pressure of the permafrost."

    Scientists reckon there might be diseases lurking in the permafrost as they're known to spread quickly.

    "Viruses from extinct diseases such as smallpox; the always-present anthrax, through spore-contaminated areas; and also the accelerated spread of diseases already known to [exist] in today's Arctic such as tularemia, a serious bacterial infection, or tick-borne encephalitis," Claverie warned.

    A 12-year-old lad tragically lost his life in northern Siberia due to an anthrax outbreak in 2016, which also wiped out thousands of animals.

    Unusually warm weather that sped up the thawing of permafrost, exposing reindeer to the infection, was the cause. Evengard explained: "Anthrax happens to have a very thick cell wall, so it can stay in a long sleep for hundreds of years and then come back to life."

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