New infections from Antarctic lake possible – UK scientist

A microbiologist working in Antarctica states that there is “legitimate concern” about the danger of micro-organisms in Lake Vostok.

The giant underwater pool near the South Pole had been sealed off by a thick layer of ice for millions of years until a Russian expedition reached its surface after a thirty-year drill several days ago.

Yet Professor David Pearce, who is a scientist with a rival British expedition to Antarctica, believes that despite the theoretical possibility of new infections emerging from underneath the ice, the actual chances are infinitesimal.

“Antarctic sub-glacial lake systems face very unusual selection pressures. They are high pressure, they are dark and they have unusual chemistry and oxygen concentrations” Pearce tells RT “All of these things select for organisms that are very, very unlikely to find the human body a suitable host for infection.”

Instead these unique conditions have led scientists to look for hitherto unseen micro-organisms. If these are found, they might explain more about the evolution of life on Earth, or even suggest how life could have flourished on distant planets with similarly hostile environments – such as Jupiter’s moon Europa.

“We might find simple but unique forms of life that were created by this environment. Or there might have been other forms of life that existed in the lake before it froze over. Those might still be there, particularly if there is, say, a geyser inside it.” The chief scientist of the Russian expedition Sergey Bulat tells RT.

More outlandish versions also suggest that the lake may house Adolf Hitler’s archives, after a long-standing rumor that a secret Nazi base was constructed there.

Any further specific research into the lake and its contents will be delayed until the end of the year, when the short Antarctic summer returns.

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