An ancient virus that has remained frozen for around 48,500 years has been successfully revived by a group of scientists. It represents the oldest frozen virus, revived by experts to date.
Humans may be faced with a new threat if ancient permafrost thaws due to climate change. This is the warning of a team of researchers who have revived nearly two dozen viruses, among them one that has been frozen since 48,500 years ago. A 30,000-year-old giant virus found in northwestern Siberia had previously been revived by the same international team that authored the present study. Now they’ve broken that record by reviving a pathogen found at the bottom of a Siberian lake. Known as Pandoravirus yedoma, it dates back 48,500 years. The yedoma Pandoravirus has approximately 2,500 genes, compared to modern viruses, with about 20 genes.
Scientists who first observed them thought they were too big to be viruses because of this fact. Their assumption was that they were bacteria. Thawing permafrost is a big issue for the world. And scientists have long pointed out that global warming will only make it worse. This is because as temperatures rise and ice melts, trapped greenhouse gasses such as methane are released into the atmosphere. However, the effect global warming and climate change have on latent pathogens was lesser known. In their study, researchers from France, Russia, and Germany reported that the biohazard of reviving viruses is minimal because they selected strains able to infect amoebas. The possibility of reactivation of a virus that may infect animals or humans is far more complex, they acknowledged, noting that they could extrapolate their findings to demonstrate the threat.