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

Researchers at France’s National Center for Scientific Research have revived more than a dozen prehistoric viruses previously trapped deep in the Siberian permafrost, according to a pre-print study.

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

In 2014, the same researchers discovered a 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.

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The ancient virus was named Pandoravirus yedoma, which recognizes the size and type of permafrost soil in which it was found, according to Science Alert.

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

“As a result of global warming, the irreversible thawing of permafrost releases organic matter that has been frozen for up to a million years, most of which decomposes into carbon dioxide and methane, further amplifying global warming,” the authors wrote. of the research. “Part of this organic matter also consists of revived cellular microbes (prokaryotes, unicellular eukaryotes) and viruses that have remained dormant since prehistoric times.”

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Some of these “zombie viruses” could be potentially dangerous to humans, the authors warn. And in fact, the thawing of permafrost has already claimed human lives.

In 2016, one child died and dozens of people were hospitalized after an anthrax outbreak in Siberia. Officials believe the outbreak started because a heat wave decades ago thawed the permafrost and unearthed a reindeer carcass contaminated with anthrax. About 2,300 reindeer died in the outbreak.

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The revived viruses that researchers discovered belong to the following subtypes of viruses: pandoravirus, cedratvirus, megavirus, pacmanvirus and pithovirus. These viruses are considered “giant” because they are large and easy to spot using light microscopy.

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For this reason, researchers believe 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 could infect an organism. The researchers said this limited their results to only detecting “lytic viruses,” which destroy their host, as opposed to other types of viruses that can fuse with a host’s DNA.

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A silver lining is that the study authors say there is a “negligible” risk of these amoeba-infecting viruses having a dangerous impact on humans. But that’s not to say that all ancient viruses are harmless.

The authors noted that the “risky” search for viruses found in the “permafrost-preserved remains of mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses or prehistoric horses” is an entirely different story.

It is unclear whether these ancient viruses can infect a host once exposed to outdoor conditions such as heat, oxygen and UV rays. But researchers say the likelihood of such a situation increases as more permafrost thaws and more people begin to occupy the melting Arctic for commercial and industrial ventures.

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