Oblast: A Stone Age virus lying dormant for at least 30,000 years has been ‘successfully’ revived by scientists in Siberia.
A closeup of the 30,000-year old virus infecting an amoeba cell. Scientists say the virus is a type they have never seen before and warn that global warming could lead to more being uncovered
It may sound like the start of a sci-fi disaster film, but the team of French researchers are celebrating after resurrecting the giant virus. The pithovirus sibericum was unleashed from a 100-foot deep layer of the Siberian permafrost when the ice thawed, becoming infectious again.
The virus, which poses no danger to humans or animals, is so large it can be seen under a microscope. “This is the first time we’ve seen a virus that’s still infectious after this length of time,’ said Professor Jean-Michel Claverie, from the National Centre of Scientific Research.
However, the discovery has raised fears that other more deadly pathogens could be released from the frozen ground. One expert said drilling deeper, which researchers say is under threat as the ice thins, is a ‘recipe for disaster’.
Dr Chantal Abergel, a co-author of the report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said the team were taking precautions to stop other viruses being released. “We are addressing this issue by sequencing the DNA that is present in those layers,” she said. “This would be the best way to work out what is dangerous in there.”
Number of genes the pithovirus sibericus has