Scientists revive ancient ‘zombie viruses’ frozen for eons in Siberia: ScienceAlert

Scientists revive ancient ‘zombie viruses’ frozen for eons in Siberia: ScienceAlert

As the world warms, vast amounts of permafrost are meltingreleasing material trapped in its icy grip for years. This includes multitudes of microbes that in some cases lay dormant for hundreds of millennia.

To study the nascent microbes, scientists have now revived several of them “zombie viruses” from Siberian permafrost, including one thought to be nearly 50,000 years old – a record age for a frozen virus returning to a state capable of infecting other organisms.

The team behind the work, led by microbiologist Jean-Marie Alempic from France’s National Center for Scientific Research, says these reanimated viruses potentially pose a significant threat to public health and further studies need to be done to assess the danger these infectious agents might pose as they wake up from their frozen slumber.

“One quarter of the Northern Hemisphere is underlain by permanently frozen ground, called permafrost,” the researchers write in their paper.

“Due to climate warming, the irreversible thawing of permafrost releases organic matter frozen for up to a million years, most of which breaks down into carbon dioxide and methane, further enhancing the greenhouse effect.”

The 48,500-year-old amoeba virus is actually one of 13 listed in the new study currently in preparation, nine of which are thought to be tens of thousands of years old. The researchers found that each of them differed from all other known viruses in terms of their genome.

While the record-breaking virus was found under the lake, other extraction sites included mammoth wool and the intestines of a Siberian wolf – all buried beneath the permafrost. Using live single-cell cultures of amoeba, the team proved that viruses still have the potential to be infectious pathogens.

We also see huge numbers of bacteria released into the environment as the world warms, but given the antibiotics at our disposal, one could argue that they will prove less dangerous. A new virus – as with SARS-CoV-2 – could be much more problematic for public health, especially as the Arctic becomes more populated.

“The situation would be much more catastrophic in the case of plant, animal or human disease caused by the revival of an ancient unknown virus,” the researchers write.

“Therefore, it is legitimate to think about the risk of ancient virus particles remaining infectious and returning to circulation by thawing ancient permafrost layers.”

This team has the form to diligently mine viruses in Siberia, with a previous study detailing the discovery of a 30,000-year-old virus. Like the new record holder, it was a pandoravirus, a behemoth large enough to be seen with a light microscope.

The revived virus was given a name Pandoravirus yedomawhich confirms his greatness and a type of permafrost soil Researchers think there are many more viruses to find than those that only target amoebas.

Many of the viruses that will be released as the ice melts will be completely unknown to us – although it remains to be seen how infectious these viruses will be when exposed to the light, heat and oxygen of the outside environment. These are all areas that could be explored in future studies.

Virologist Eric Delwart of the University of California, San Francisco, agrees that these giant viruses are just the beginning when it comes to exploring what lies beneath the permafrost. Although Delwart was not involved in the current study, has considerable experience in reviving ancient plant viruses.

“If the authors do indeed isolate living viruses from ancient permafrost, it is likely that even smaller, simpler mammalian viruses would also survive being frozen for eons,” Delwart said. New Scientist.

The research has not yet been peer-reviewed, but is available at bioRxiv.

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