A “mega’ virus has accidentally been revived after laying dormant in the frozen Siberian tundra for some 30,000 years, sparking fears among the mining and oil drilling communities in the region
Although this virus appears to belong to a previously unknown family of giant viruses that only affect amoebas, scientists worry that increasing warmer temperatures in northern latitudes could re-awaken other dormant microbes that may one day harm humans.
“The discovery of these microbes and their subsequent revival in a laboratory stands as proof of the principle that we could eventually resurrect active infectious viruses from different periods,” stated Jean-Michel Claverie, a microbiologist at Aix-Marseille University in France.
“We know that those non-dangerous viruses are alive there, which probably is telling us that the dangerous kind that may infect humans and animals, thought eradicated from the surface of the Earth, are actually still present and eventually viable underground,” he added, warning that increased human activities in these areas are definitely going to “perturb layers that have been dormant for 3 million years and may contain viruses.”
In turn, Chantal Abergel, who co-wrote the study with Claverie, cautioned that before people begin to panic, it should be noted that their current findings are limited to “one innocuous virus strand infecting one-cell organisms. “We cannot absolutely say there are some human pathogens in there. However, we will take a closer look at the drill core samples to find out if there is anything dangerous to us and other animals,” she stated.
Readers interested in learning more about their study can find it online in yesterday’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.