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Siberian ‘soft virus’ could be just one ancient pathogen revived by climate change

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Scientists said they will reanimate a 30,000-year-old giant virus unearthed in the frozen wastelands of Siberia, and warned climate change may awaken dangerous microscopic pathogens.

Reporting this week in the flagship journal of the US National Academy of Sciences, French researchers announced the discovery of Mollivirus sibericum, the fourth type of pre-historic virus found since 2003 — and the second by this team.

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Before waking it up, researchers will have to verify that the bug cannot cause animal or human disease.

To qualify as a “giant”, a virus has to be longer than half a micron, a thousandth of a millimetre (0.00002 of an inch).

Mollivirus sibericum — “soft virus from Siberia” — comes in at 0.6 microns, and was found in the permafrost of northeastern Russia.

Climate change is warming the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions at more than twice the global average, which means that permafrost is not so permanent any more.

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The regions in which these giant microbes have been found are coveted for their mineral resources, especially oil, and will become increasingly accessible for industrial exploitation as more of the ice melts away.

“If we are not careful, and we industrialise these areas without putting safeguards in place, we run the risk of one day waking up viruses such as small pox that we thought were eradicated,” he added.

In safe laboratory conditions, Claverie and colleagues will attempt to revive the newly discovered virus by placing it with single-cell amoeba, which will serve as its host.

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Claverie, who runs a lab at France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), and a team discovered another giant virus, which they called Pithovirus sibericum, at the same location in 2013, then managed to revive it in a petri dish.

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In 2004, US at a top-security lab at the Centers for …
In 2004, US at a top-security lab at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) resurrecte …
Unlike most viruses circulating today, and to the general astonishment of scientists, these ancient specimens dating from the last Ice Age are not only bigger, but far more complex genetically.

M. sibericum has more than 500 genes, while another family of giant virus discovered in 2003, Pandoravirus, has 2,500. The Influenza A virus, by contrast, has eight genes.

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In 2004, US scientists resurrected the notorious “Spanish flu” virus, which killed tens of millions of people, in order to understand how the pathogen was extraordinarily so virulent.

US researchers flew to Alaska to take frozen lung tissues from a woman who was buried in permafrost.

By teasing genetic scraps out of these precious samples and from autopsy tissues stored in formalin, the team painstakingly reconstructed the code for the virus’ eight genes.

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The work was done in a top-security lab at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


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2020 Election

Facebook reveals how Russia is already trying to manipulate the 2020 presidential election

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On Monday, in a series of announcements by Facebook, the company revealed it had shut down four new foreign interference operations originating from Russia and Iran. According to their announcement, one appears to be linked to the Russian troll agency, the Internet Research Agency (IRA), and was targeting the U.S. 2020 presidential election.

The company removed 50 Instagram accounts and one account on Facebook that originated in Russia and focused primarily on the United States.

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Republicans’ laughable effort to attack Adam Schiff lands with a thud

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Republicans' effort to castigate California Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee spearheading the impeachment inquiry, met a quick and sudden defeat on Monday in a vote of 218-185.

Spurred on by President Donald Trump's attacks on the chairman, GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy led an effort to censure Schiff on the House floor. On what grounds? It's almost too absurd to make up: lying.

The party of Donald Trump — who lied more times in the hours before the censure vote than Schiff even stands accused of — actually claimed that it's the California lawmaker who should be called out for dishonesty.

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Lindsey Graham leaves open the possibility of voting to impeach President Donald Trump

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Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., left open the possibility that he would vote to impeach President Donald Trump if he saw evidence that the commander-in-chief had engaged in a quid pro quo during an interview with "Axios on HBO" broadcast Sunday night.

After telling Axios’ Jonathan Swan that he would need to see evidence of an actual “crime,” Graham added that “if you could show me that, you know, Trump actually was engaging in a quid pro quo outside the phone call, that would be very disturbing."

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