Scientists have unearthed several viruses that have been buried under the Siberian permafrost since the last time ice Age. While it may sound risky, according to the team, the research is vital as we consider the growing dangers of melting permafrost.
In a recent study, researchers say they have identified 13 viruses from samples found in eastern Russia. Among them, they managed to bring back to life a virus from a sample dating back to 48,500 years ago. If confirmed, it would be the oldest virus ever awakened.
“48,500 years is a world record.said Jean-Michel Claverie, study author and professor of genomics and bioinformatics at Aix-Marseille University, France.
The French team of researchers has also brought back to life 3 new viruses, coming from the remains of mammoths frozen in permafrost 27,000 years ago. The new viruses were called mammoth pithovirus, pandoravirus mammoth, And Mammoth megavirus.
2 other viruses have been isolated from the stomach contents of a Siberian wolf: Pacman virus lupus And Pandoravirus lupus.
These viruses are capable of infecting amoebas, and experiments have revealed that it may be potentially dangerous pathogens. The team introduced the viruses into cultures of live amoebae, demonstrating that they were able to invade cells and replicate.
As we know, melting permafrost has dramatic effects on climate, but researchers say that may not be the only risk. The increase in temperatures could cause the awakening of ancient pathogenic viruses.
“As unfortunately documented by recent pandemics, any new virus almost always requires a precise medical response, in the form of antiviral or vaccine.” The study author added.”It is therefore legitimate to reflect on the risk of ancient viral particles that still remain infectious and that could return to circulation due to the melting of the permafrost.”