Resident Evil: Extinction. 30,000-year-old giant virus revived from frozen Siberian tundra
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
3/4/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
It sounds something out of a science-fiction story - but it's completely true. A 30,000-year-old giant virus has been revived from the frozen Siberian tundra. There are mounting fears that the virus could disturb dormant microbial life that could one day prove harmful to man.
The discovery has sparked concern that increased mining and oil drilling in rapidly warming northern latitudes could widely deploy the virus into the earth's atmosphere.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The discovery has sparked concern that increased mining and oil drilling in rapidly warming northern latitudes could widely deploy the virus into the earth's atmosphere.
The ancient virus appears to belong to a new family of mega-viruses that infect only amoeba. Its revival in a laboratory stands as "a proof of principle that we could eventually resurrect active infectious viruses from different periods," the study's lead author, microbiologist Jean-Michel Claverie of Aix-Marseille University in France, says.
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"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 -- that we think were eradicated from the surface of Earth -- are actually still present and eventually viable, in the ground," Claverie said.
As climate change makes northern reaches more accessible, the chance of disturbing dormant human pathogens increases. Surface temperatures in the area that previously contained the virus have increased substantially in more temperate latitudes, researchers noted.
"People will go there; they will settle there, and they will start mining and drilling," Claverie said. "Human activities are going to perturb layers that have been dormant for 3 million years and may contain viruses."
We cannot definitely say that there are some human pathogens in there," Claverie's co-author, Chantal Abergel says. She cautioned that their finding is limited to one innocuous virus infecting an amoeba. They will reexamine the drill core samples, Abergel said, to "find out if there is anything there that is dangerous to humans and animals."
Scientists thawed the virus, dubbed Pithovirus sibericum, and watched it replicate in a culture in a Petri dish. The virus infected an amoeba, a simple single-cell organism.
Viruses can survive being locked up in the permafrost for extremely long periods, according to a statement released by France's National Center for Scientific Research.
"It has important implications for public-health risks in connection with exploiting mineral or energy resources in Arctic Circle regions that are becoming more and more accessible through global warming," it said.
"The revival of viruses that are considered to have been eradicated, such as the smallpox virus, whose replication process is similar to that of Pithovirus, is no longer limited to science fiction," the statement continued. "The risk that this scenario could happen in real life has to be viewed realistically."
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