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BBC’s Silly Anthrax Scare Story

May 6, 2017

By Paul Homewood




The BBC have gone right over the top now, with this latest silly little scare story:


Throughout history, humans have existed side-by-side with bacteria and viruses. From the bubonic plague to smallpox, we have evolved to resist them, and in response they have developed new ways of infecting us.

We have had antibiotics for almost a century, ever since Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. In response, bacteria have responded by evolving antibiotic resistance. The battle is endless: because we spend so much time with pathogens, we sometimes develop a kind of natural stalemate.

However, what would happen if we were suddenly exposed to deadly bacteria and viruses that have been absent for thousands of years, or that we have never met before?

We may be about to find out. Climate change is melting permafrost soils that have been frozen for thousands of years, and as the soils melt they are releasing ancient viruses and bacteria that, having lain dormant, are springing back to life.

Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) migrating (Credit: Eric Baccega/

Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) migrating (Credit: Eric Baccega/

In August 2016, in a remote corner of Siberian tundra called the Yamal Peninsula in the Arctic Circle, a 12-year-old boy died and at least twenty people were hospitalised after being infected by anthrax.

The theory is that, over 75 years ago, a reindeer infected with anthrax died and its frozen carcass became trapped under a layer of frozen soil, known as permafrost. There it stayed until a heatwave in the summer of 2016, when the permafrost thawed.

This exposed the reindeer corpse and released infectious anthrax into nearby water and soil, and then into the food supply. More than 2,000 reindeer grazing nearby became infected, which then led to the small number of human cases.

The fear is that this will not be an isolated case.


Apparently we are expected to believe that, before it popped its clogs, this particular reindeer dug its own grave below permafrost thousands of years old!

Of course, 75 years ago, temperatures were the same as now, and there was no permafrost where Rudolf keeled over. It is only since then that the soil has frozen.


The BBC report then regales us with viruses, thousands of years old, which will be released to kill us all as the permafrost further melts.

Given that it has been warmer than now for most of the last 8000 years, this seems extremely remote, to put it mildly.


Indeed, according to Russian researchers, Koshkarova and Koshkarov, temperatures in Central Siberia were 3-9 degreesC higher in winter and 2-6 degreesC higher in summer 8000 years ago.


Towards the end of the BBC’s sci-fi report, the author, Jasmin Fox-Skelly, states:

One argument is that the risk from permafrost pathogens is inherently unknowable, so they should not overtly concern us. Instead, we should focus on more established threats from climate change. For instance, as Earth warms northern countries will become more susceptible to outbreaks of "southern" diseases like malaria, cholera and dengue fever, as these pathogens thrive at warmer temperatures.


This is when we know the whole report is fake news. As has been well established by proper scientists, malaria and dengue fever are not affected by temperatures.

As one of the world’s leading specialists in the natural history and biology of mosquitoes, Prof Paul Reiter, told the Parliamentary Select Committee on Economic Affairs in 2005:

The most catastrophic epidemic [of malaria] on record anywhere in the world occurred in the Soviet Union in the 1920s, with a peak incidence of 13 million cases per year, and 600,000 deaths. Transmission was high in many parts of Siberia, and there were 30,000 cases and 10,000 deaths due to falciparum infection (the most deadly malaria parasite) in Archangel, close to the Arctic circle.”


But I don’t know why I am surprised. The BBC long ago lost any credibility where reporting on climate change is concerned.

  1. May 6, 2017 10:31 pm

    There is history here. You also have to pay attention to the Russian budget cycle.

  2. tom0mason permalink
    May 7, 2017 12:43 am

    Anthrax is alive in the soil —

    Unlike viruses which are inert (as virion particles )until they are invading or inside a suitable host.

    While not inside an infected cell or in the process of infecting a cell, viruses exist in the form of independent particles. These viral particles, also known as virions, consist of two or three parts: (i) the genetic material made from either DNA or RNA, long molecules that carry genetic information; (ii) a protein coat, called the capsid, which surrounds and protects the genetic material; and in some cases (iii) an envelope of lipids that surrounds the protein coat when they are outside a cell. The shapes of these virus particles range from simple helical and icosahedral forms for some virus species to more complex structures for others. Most virus species have virions that are too small to be seen with an optical microscope. The average virion is about one one-hundredth the size of the average bacterium.


    As such it is arguable that viruses are (or are not) living matter as it requires living cells to replicate. Also note that viruses are relatively poor at accurate replication, this means that most viruses mutate a lot as they replicate.

  3. Curious George permalink
    May 7, 2017 3:16 am

    The Pharaoh curse is coming back.

  4. AndyG55 permalink
    May 7, 2017 3:56 am

    Do they mean from when the soil was soft, and there was less permafrost..

    like before the LIA ??

    Foot in mouth disease is certainly rampant in the AGW society. !!

  5. May 7, 2017 6:09 am

    This is no surprise as Jasmin Fox-Skelly also creates false news stories for New Scientist.

    • bea permalink
      May 7, 2017 9:25 am

      If you follow it up, using Ron’s links and others’, you will find that “the theory” [a.k.a. mad Russian lies] is that living deer [herbivores] ATE a 75 old corpse of one of their own!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Why on earth one needs special theories to explain an outbreak of a world-wide endemic disease escapes the epidemiology I was instructed in.

      The writer of the BBC article [a.k.a. idiot] obviously does not know the difference between being buried by a glacier in one winter, like Utzi, and being fossilised in the ground. She also does not know [“a layer of frozen soil”] that soils take thousands of years to develop.

      • dave permalink
        May 7, 2017 9:57 am

        The “active layer” in cold country is the top part of the soil, which thaws in summer and freezes in winter. I always understood that “the permafrost” was the NEXT layer down – below ground level. If that thaws – i.e. the active layer extends – I do not see how them zomby pathogens are going to crawl up out of the pit, through the active layer of earth, and bite me in the arse.

  6. Coeur de Lion permalink
    May 7, 2017 8:55 am

    The Norwich football team wear yellow shirts because of malaria in the fens memories

  7. May 7, 2017 9:52 am

    I found this article very interesting; but suspect not many would without the presence of ( or infection by) the AGW viral meme. These days few scientists will get their papers published without inclusion of this meme.
    I also suspect that we are approaching the high tide of this pandemic as the facts slowly emerge; but it will take some years before the ebb sets in.

  8. dennisambler permalink
    May 7, 2017 10:13 am

    The Yamal Peninsula? THAT Yamal Peninsula?

  9. Gerry, England permalink
    May 7, 2017 11:25 am

    Talk about digging up old news. If that’s the best they can offer. The reindeer anthrax story was covered ages ago where the key point the alarmists choose to ignore is vaccination. They stopped doing it and whadda ya know, the disease comes back.

  10. May 8, 2017 12:38 pm

    Actually, this is quite good news; any bacteria that have been frozen in the permafrost for aeons, will not have built up any resistance to man made antibiotics. Drugs that have long since passed their ‘sell by’ date can be brought off the shelf and re-launched against unsuspecting archaeobacteria; it will be an outright slaughter ! A serious throat infection cured by one Rinstead pastille !

    • Freddie Grater permalink
      May 8, 2017 6:59 pm

      Besides that, what makes them think that there is something under the permafrost that we don’t already have – such as anthrax.

  11. Freddie Grater permalink
    May 8, 2017 6:58 pm

    Epic fail: “bacteria have responded by evolving antibiotic resistance.”
    No they haven’t. In any given strain of bacteria, some will be resistant, genetically to a given antibiotic. Then the non-resistant ones die out. Mutation and evolution have nothing to do with it.

  12. May 10, 2017 8:26 am

    The BBC is the 21st century’s counterpart to the Dominicans – a propagandist organisation for whom ‘truth’ is, at best, an irrelevance. In consequence, ‘going over the top’ is par for the course.

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