By: April Carson
A group of scientists have discovered and revived a virus that they refer to as a "zombie" virus. This virus had been frozen in permafrost for almost 50,000 years. The researchers have also identified several other viruses that were frozen underground for tens of thousands of years.
Jean-Michel Claverie, a French professor of medicine and genomics, tested earth samples from Siberian permafrost to find "zombie viruses" and gain a clearer understanding of the risks associated with frozen viruses.
Permafrost is a type of frozen ground that occurs on land and beneath the ocean in regions where temperatures stay below freezing most of the time. It is commonly found in areas such as the Arctic, Greenland, Alaska, Russia, China, and Eastern Europe.
Scientists say that the Arctic's permafrost, which is a frozen soil layer, is melting due to increasing temperatures. This could lead to the revival of viruses that have been inactive for thousands of years.
The discovery of the "zombie" virus shows that there are still unknown risks associated with climate change. The researchers believe that as permafrost melts, it could release ancient viruses and bacteria into the environment where they could pose a threat to human health.
In February, Claverie, an emeritus professor at Aix-Marseille University School of Medicine in Marseille, and his team published research revealing the collection of ancient viruses from samples of Siberian permafrost.
The oldest virus strain discovered was nearly 48,500 years old and was obtained from a sample of earth located at the bottom of an underground lake.
The stomach samples found in the remains of woolly mammoths were determined to be 27,000 years old. The corpses of the extinct mammals were found in the same region.
The research team is currently studying how the viruses behaved after being revived and are exploring potential treatments that could possibly help minimize any risks associated with a virus outbreak.
In 2014, Claverie and his team were able to revive a virus from permafrost that had been inactive for 30,000 years by introducing it into cultured cells. The virus that they studied only attacked single-cell amoebas to ensure safety.
On February 18, Claverie and his team published new research where they identified multiple types of ancient viruses from seven different locations in Siberian permafrost.
The study found that the latest strains belonged to five virus families, specifically pandoravirus, cedratvirus, megavirus, and pacmanvirus, as well as a new strain of pithovirus, in addition to the two he had previously revived.
The team believes that their findings represent a very small fraction of the ancient viruses trapped in permafrost. They are now looking to further explore this area to learn more about the risks associated with these ancient viruses and how we can protect ourselves from them.
Claverie has suggested that viruses which can still be infectious even after being frozen for a long time might be a risk to public health. The viruses that infect amoebas can represent all other viruses that may exist in the permafrost. "It's a question of time before we see the emergence of new human pathogens in the coming decades," Claverie said. "We need to be ready for it."
“We have found traces of many other viruses, although we cannot confirm if they are still active. Our assumption is that if amoeba viruses are still present, then it's possible for other viruses to also be present and infect their respective hosts," said Claverie in an interview with CNN.
Scientists are keeping a close eye on the situation and looking for new ways to identify and contain potential risks associated with ancient viruses.
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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