A giant virus has been thawed out after remaining dormant for 30,000 years buried in the ancient permafrost in Siberia. This brings concerns about the possibility of other ancient viruses being released as the climate warms and explorations push farther into the untouched regions of Siberia, according to Fox News on March 4.
This ancient virus recently discovered doesn’t resemble any pathogens known to harm humans. Only single-celled organisms could only be infected by this newly discovered virus. This latest discovery suggests the possibility of some other type of virus coming back to life.
Is there a danger of ancient giant viruses coming to life in the future?
It is not far-fetched to have concerns that other viruses may thaw out, such as an unknown Neanderthal virus or possibly even smallpox that has been undisturbed in the frozen ground of Siberia. This now means that “it isn’t impossible” to see a dormant virus be revived and “most likely infect as all,” claims Jean-Michel Claverie, a bioinformatics researcher at Aix-Marseille University in France. Claverie claims:
"Those pathogens could be banal bacteria (curable with antibiotics) or resistant bacteria or nasty viruses. If they have been extinct for a long time, then our immune system is no longer prepared to respond to them."
Just what is a “giant virus?”
Clarverie and his colleagues have discovered giant viruses that they call giant because they are as big as bacteria. This latest virus found was extracted from the Siberian permafrost, which was collected back in 2000 from Kolyma, located in the Russian Far East.
The giant virus research test:
Researchers put samples of this permafrost in Petri dishes with amoebas and waited to see what would happen. The researchers found that some of the amoebas burst open and died. Upon further investigation they found it was a virus that actually killed the amoebas.
The virus will not infect humans or animals. With the climate warming, allowing people to trek farther into Siberia than ever before to mine or drill for oil, this brings up concerns of more viruses being unleashed. Clarverie said:
"If viable virions are still there, this is a good recipe for disaster."
Virions is the term used for viruses laying in a dormant state.
Is this something to be concerned about?
While this theory is a bit scary to say the least, other scientists are not convinced that thawing of dormant viruses will mean doom. Curtis Suttle, who is a marine virologist at the University of British Columbia in Canada, remains folks that you swallow about “a billion viruses” each time you swim in the sea. Many thousands of viruses are inhaled by each person every day. His concern lies more with sea levels rising than dormant viruses coming to life. Suttle said:
"I would be much more concerned about the hundreds of millions of people that will be displaced by rising sea levels than the risk of being exposed to pathogens from melting permafrost."