Scientists Revive 48,500-Year-Old 'Zombie Virus' Buried In Permafrost

Andrei Tapalaga
What do these ancient viruses show, and what risk is humanity exposed to?Photo byImage by Mario from Pixabay

Although viruses are now generally avoided, they also contain a wealth of biological data that may be used to piece together the story of our distant ancestors' evolution. The persistence of such old viruses might explain why some other human species have vanished from the face of the planet. As the world warms, large areas of permafrost are thawing, releasing elements that have been trapped in its icy grip for years. This consists of a wide variety of bacteria, some of which have been dormant for hundreds of millennia.

The melting of old permafrost brought on by climate change, according to researchers who have recovered over two dozen viruses, including one buried under a lake more than 48,500 years ago.

Prehistoric samples retrieved from the Siberian permafrost in Russia were examined by European researchers. They found that after spending countless eons frozen on the soil, 13 new infections that they revived and dubbed "zombie viruses" were still communicable.

“One quarter of the Northern Hemisphere is underlain by permanently frozen ground, referred to as permafrost. “Due to climate warming, irreversibly thawing permafrost is releasing organic matter frozen for up to a million years, most of which decompose into carbon dioxide and methane, further enhancing the greenhouse effect.” (Quote by Jean-Marie Alempic)

Other extraction locations revealed Siberian wolf guts, mammoth wool, and other permafrost-buried objects, while the record-breaking virus was found beneath a lake. Using live single-cell amoeba cultures, the researchers showed that the viruses still had the potential to be spreading diseases.

The finding of these gigantic viruses, according to virologist Eric Delwart of the University of California, San Francisco, indicates that research into what lies beneath the permafrost is just getting started. Even though he wasn't involved in the present inquiry, Delwart has a lot of experience restoring previous plant viruses.

The team of researchers expressed concern that their research may be broadened to show that the threat is real and emphasized how much more catastrophic it would be if a virus that could infect people or animals were to reappear.

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