48 thousand years old ‘Zombie Virus’ from permafrost has been revived

Scientists have “recovered” seven ancient viruses found in the permafrost of Siberia. The “youngest” of them was frozen for 27 thousand years, the oldest 48.5 thousand years, reports sciencealert.com.

Viruses have been “resurrected” by a team of scientists from the University of Aix-Marseille in France. According to virologist Jean-Michel Claverie, 48.5 thousand years is an absolute record for recovered viruses.

All seven viruses, including those 48.5 thousand years old, belong to the group of pandoraviruses – giant viruses discovered in 2013. The oldest received the scientific name Pandoravirus yedoma in honor of the Yedoma upland in Northeastern Siberia, where it was found.

Recovered pandoraviruses have been found in permafrost samples at a depth of 16 meters in Yakutia, as well as in Kamchatka. Three of them had previously come across to scientists, but four were of a completely new kind.

Pandoraviruses are one micrometer long and 0.5 micrometer wide, which means they can be seen with a light microscope.

All seven recovered viruses, as indicated, are not dangerous to humans, plants and animals, and can only infect unicellular organisms (amoebas).

In 2014, Professor Claveri also reported on the “revival” of two ancient viruses, whose age was about 30 thousand years. These viruses were also found in Russia.

Due to global warming, more and more permafrost is beginning to melt, exposing areas that have been frozen for tens of thousands of years. They find well-preserved remains of animals, as well as viruses.

These ancient viruses are very frightening to some scientists, because although the pandoraviruses mentioned in the article are not dangerous to humans, animals and plants, other ancient viruses can be dangerous and in theory can cause epidemics of disease.

In their research paper, Prof. Claverie and colleagues mentioned these concerns, pointing out that releasing live bacteria or archaea that have remained in cryptobiosis in permafrost for millions of years is a potential “public health issue.”

“The situation would be much more catastrophic in the event of diseases in plants, animals or humans caused by the resurgence of an ancient unknown virus. As unfortunately well documented by recent (and ongoing) pandemics, every new virus, even those associated with known families, almost always requires development highly specific medical response, such as new antivirals or vaccines,” they write.

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