Scientists revive ‘zombie’ virus after 50,000 years trapped in Siberian permafrost
As our world continues to warm, vast areas of permafrost are melting at a rapid rate, releasing material that has been trapped for a million years. This includes countless numbers of microbes that have been dormant for hundreds of millennia.
To study these emerging microbes, scientists at France’s National Center for Scientific Research have now revived some of them “zombie viruses” of the Siberian permafrost, including one that is nearly 50,000 years old — a record age for a frozen virus to return to a state capable of infecting other organisms.
The team behind the study, led by microbiologist Jean-Marie, says these ancient viruses may pose a significant threat to public health and further research is needed to assess the danger these infectious agents could pose if the permafrost melts.
The researchers cautioned that this may be just the tip of the iceberg:
“A quarter of the Northern Hemisphere is covered by permanently frozen ground, known as permafrost,” researchers wrote in the paper.
“As a result of global warming, the irreversible thawing of permafrost is releasing organic matter that has been frozen for up to a million years, most of which decomposes into carbon dioxide and methane, further amplifying the greenhouse effect. of this organic matter also consists of revived cellular microbes (prokaryotes, unicellular eukaryotes) as well as viruses that have remained dormant since prehistoric times.”
According to Worldwide news:
In 2014, the same researchers 30,000 year old virus trapped in permafrost, the BBC reported. The discovery was groundbreaking because the virus could still infect organisms after all this time. But now they have broken their own record by reviving a virus that is 48,500 years old.
“If the authors do indeed isolate live viruses from ancient permafrost, it is likely that the even smaller, simpler mammalian viruses would also survive frozen for centuries,” said virologist Eric Delwart of the University of California, San Francisco. New scientist.
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