‘Zombie’ virus revived after 50,000 years trapped in Siberian permafrost

Researchers at the French National Center for Scientific Research have resurrected more than a dozen prehistoric viruses previously thought to be trapped deep within Siberian permafrost. pre-print study,

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From seven ancient permafrost samples, scientists were able to document 13 never-before-seen viruses that have been lying dormant in the ice for thousands of years.

In 2014, the same researchers discovered a 30,000 year old virus Stuck in permafrost, the BBC reported. This discovery was unprecedented because even after that time, the virus was still able to infect organisms. But now, he has broken his own record by reviving a 48,500-year-old virus.


The ancient virus was named Pandoravirus yedoma, a nod to its shape and the type of permafrost soil in which it was found. science alert,

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Scientists are thawing these ancient viruses to assess their effects on public health. As permafrost, or permanently frozen ground, thaws in the Northern Hemisphere, the melting ice releases tons of trapped chemicals and microbes.

The authors of the study wrote, “Irreversibly thawing permafrost due to climate warming is releasing organic material frozen for one million years, much of which decomposes into carbon dioxide and methane, which increase the greenhouse effect.” Huh.” “Part of this organic matter includes revived cellular microbes (prokaryotes, unicellular eukaryotes) as well as viruses that have been dormant since prehistoric times.”

The authors caution that some of these “zombie viruses” could be potentially dangerous to humans. And, indeed, the thawing of permafrost has already claimed human lives.

In 2016, a child died and dozens were hospitalized after an anthrax outbreak in Siberia. Officials believe the outbreak began because a heat wave thawed permafrost and unearthed reindeer carcasses infected with anthrax decades ago. About 2,300 deer died in the outbreak.

The regenerated viruses that the researchers observed belong to the following virus subtypes: Pandoravirus, Sideratavirus, Megavirus, Pacmanvirus and Pithovirus. These viruses are considered “giant” because they are large and easy to detect using light microscopy.

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For this reason, researchers believe that there are many other smaller viruses that have escaped scrutiny.

The scientists also used amoeba cells as “virus bait” to see which viruses were still active and capable of infecting an organism. The researchers said this limited their results to only detecting “lytic viruses,” which destroy their hosts, as opposed to other types of viruses that can merge with the host’s DNA.

One silver lining is that the study authors say there is a “negligible” risk of these amoeba-transmitted viruses having dangerous effects on humans. But this does not mean that all ancient viruses are harmless.

The authors noted that “risky” searches for viruses found in “permafrost-preserved remains of mammoths, woolly rhinos, or prehistoric horses” are another story entirely.

It is unclear whether these ancient viruses would be able to infect a host after exposure to external conditions such as heat, oxygen and UV rays. But researchers say the potential for such a situation is growing as more and more permafrost thaws and more people begin to capture the melting Arctic for commercial and industrial enterprises.

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