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Luis Zaman, CSCS and EEB Professor, Co-authors Study Highlighting Potential Environmental Risks of 'Time-Traveling' Pathogens

Dr. Zaman has been a pioneer in the field of computational biology and his expertise was called in to play as part of the team investigating the potential impact of pathogens being released from melting permafrost.
Illustration by Ravi Teja Bandaru - LSA Magazine.

A groundbreaking study, recently published in the open-access journal PLOS Computational Biology, reveals alarming insights into the potential ecological risks posed by ancient pathogens released from melting permafrost. The research, led by Giovanni Strona of the European Commission Joint Research Centre, explores the ominous possibility of these 'time-traveling' pathogens wreaking havoc on microbial communities and even posing threats to human health.

The investigation employs digital simulation techniques to assess the ecological consequences of these resurrected pathogens. By conducting artificial evolution experiments, the researchers gauge the impacts of past pathogens invading contemporary bacterial communities. Strona's team finds that a small fraction, around 1 percent, of these revived pathogens could trigger unpredictable and damaging outcomes. While the percentage might seem minor, the sheer volume of ancient microbes consistently reintroduced into modern ecosystems magnifies the risk considerably. The implications of this study suggest that the once-fictional notion of 'time-traveling' pathogens could indeed hold genuine potential as catalysts for ecological upheaval and potential health hazards, emphasizing the urgent need for continued research and proactive measures.

The work has been covered widely in several journal articles:

The article in PLOS Computational Biology

Release Date: 08/30/2023
Tags: Complex Systems; Luis Zaman