years ago, a bacteriologist in California was able to revive ancient bacteria, which were found in the gut of an ancient bee, preserved in amber. Since that time, hav ancient versions of disease-causing bacteria been found and revived? Would an ancient strain of smallpox be a threat to people today?
I am no expert but from what I’ve read, it’s not likely. The bacteria being discovered/revived are generally ones that can survive very harsh environments, as you can imagine. Otherwise they would be dead. Bacteria that cause us problems disease-wise are generally ones that prefer a nice comfy body to live in.
Depends on the pathogen and depends on what you mean by “ancient”. Some gut bacterium from the time of the dinosaurs is far less likely to cause a problem than, say, finding viable frozen smallpox from the Middle Ages.
Cecil discusses this: If I traveled back in time, would I get ancient diseases?
The Master talks about this a little WRT smallpox:
*…many Americans are as vulnerable to smallpox as Native Americans were at the time of first European contact. *
In 2011, some 135 year-old smallpox scabs were found in a Virginia museum:
*The smallpox virus is relatively hardy, and capable of living in a scab for months or even years, Schaffner said – but likely not 135 years.
…CDC staffers donning protective gear seized the skin and took it back to their Atlanta headquarters to study its scabby secrets and ensure it was no longer infectious.
“We did testing to look for evidence of variola,” the most severe form of the smallpox virus, “and it was negative,”*
So, yes, it is possible.
I have often wondered if the plagues themselves didn’t act as a filter to protect us modern humans to some extent. Obviously some people were more susceptible to the disease than others. Those people died, meaning they didn’t pass that trait on to offspring. Shouldn’t that mean that as a population we are more fit to survive an old plague reintroduced than a new plague?
Obviously that would not hold true for populations not exposed to the original disease. Like Pacific Islanders and the black death.
It has been suggested that the people who survived the medieval bubonic plague passed on to their descendants certain immune system characteristics which happen to also confer some improved ability to fight other diseases, including HIV.