30,000 year old virus reborn in Russian tundra
A 30,000 year old virus has been found in a 98-foot-deep section of permafrost close to the East Siberia Sea. In an area where the average yearly temperature is 7 degrees Fahrenheit, a more recent climate change has led to the permafrost more rapidly melting in the Russian tundra allowing the scientists from Aix-Marseille University in France to discover the 30,000 year old virus reported the Agence France-Presse.
The 30,000 year old virus, named Pithovirus Sibericum, for the Greek word “pithos” which means a big earthenware jar, is reported to be of such an “unprecedented size” it can be viewed with an optical microscope. Their study, published March 3 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reports that the 30,000 year old virus affects only amoebas and not rodent or human cells.
The study’s co-author, Jean-Michel Claverie, a bioinformatics researcher at Aix-Marseille University in France, stated: “There is now a non-zero probability that the pathogenic microbes that bothered (ancient human civilizations) could be revived and most likely infect us as well.” The researchers are concerned that the discovery of this 30,000 year old virus could very well mean that more dangerous pathogens could also be resurrected. It could even be something new that humans have never before encountered.
Claverie continued: “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.”
Today as mining companies and big oil corporations start drilling in thawing locations such as this some grow concerned that long-forgotten diseases that once endangered ancient civilizations could become active once more and infect our present-day society. Others, such as Curtis Suttle, a marine virologist at the University of British Columbia in Canada who was not part of the study, are not concerned.
He stated: “We are inundated by millions of viruses as we move through our everyday life.
Every time we swim in the sea, we swallow about a billion viruses and inhale many thousands every day. It is true that viruses will be archived in permafrost and glacial ice, but the probability that viral pathogens of humans are abundant enough, and would circulate extensively enough to affect human health, stretches scientific rationality to the breaking point.”
(Image courtesy of Wikipedia)