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48,500-year-old virus revived from Siberian permafrost. I study

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If confirmed, this would be the oldest virus ever awakened. The discovery is thanks to a team of scientists coordinated by Jean-Michel Claverie of the University of Aix-Marseille, in France

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In France, a team of scientists coordinated by Jean-Michel Claverie of the University of Aix-Marseille is said to have revived several viruses in the laboratory that had been frozen and buried in the Siberian permafrost for thousands of years. Among them, a virus from a sample dating back 48,500 years. If confirmed, this would be the oldest virus ever awakened. An article in the Corriere della Sera reports it, underlining how, although it seems very risky, researchers believe these studies are necessary in view of climate change. In fact, the rise in temperature could trigger the awakening of ancient pathogenic viruses. The results of the discovery were published on the “bioRxiv” platform, a free online archive of preprint articles, ie articles awaiting review by the scientific community.

The discovery in detail

“48,500 years is a world record for a virus,” says Claverie, who and his team of scientists had previously resurrected two other 30,000-year-old viruses from frozen mammoth remains in the permafrost. The nearly 50,000-year-old “new” virus originates from permafrost 16 meters below the bottom of a lake in Yukechi Alas, Yakutia, Russia. It is a
pandoravirus, a giant virus that infects single-celled organisms known as amoebas, as tested in the laboratory. “If the ancient giant viruses remain contagious after being frozen for so long, so will other types of mammalian viruses,” Claverie said.

Contaminants are excluded

According to the scientists, the nine viruses they resurrected are unlikely to have come from contamination of the samples by modern entities. In fact, their genomes differ from viruses already known, and over the course of the study they have discarded many others with similar genomes. “It may be possible to resurrect viruses that are much more than 48,500 years old because the deepest permafrost is up to a million years old. However, it is difficult to pinpoint the age for ancient permafrost because standard radiocarbon dating does not work beyond 50,000 years,” the research team’s coordinator added.

Why study disappeared viruses

“As sadly documented by recent pandemics, any new virus almost always requires a precise medical response, in the form of an antiviral or vaccine. It is therefore legitimate to think about the risk of old virus particles still remaining contagious and that could circulate again… because of the dissolving permafrost,” said the study author. “While there were few people in the Arctic exposed to such threats of infection, more and more people are moving to these areas to mine resources such as gold and diamonds. And the first step in mining is to remove the top layers of permafrost. The danger is real, but it is impossible to calculate the risk,” he added.

Source: TG 24 Sky

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