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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The work was done in a top-security lab at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
WATCH: Video shows NYPD beating anti-police violence protesters with batons
Protesters of police violence received a harsh reception from the New York Police Department on Friday evening.
The protesters had marched to the Barclays Center, where they were met with a large police presence.
Heavy police presence posted outside of Barclays Center. If you’re protesting, please stay safe.
Trump is enacting the presidency ‘George Wallace never had’: Conservative columnist
On Friday, writing for The Washington Post, conservative columnist Max Boot tore into President Donald Trump's legacy on race.
"We know how a normal president responds when a white police officer ignites furious protests by killing a black man. It is the way President Barack Obama responded in 2014 after a grand jury refused to indict a white police officer who had fatally shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and the National Guard had to be called in to deal with looting and fires," wrote Boot. "Obama expressed sympathy for the protesters — their anger, he noted, was 'rooted in realities that have existed in this country for a long time' — while making clear that he had no sympathy with violence: 'Burning buildings, torching cars, destroying property, putting people at risk — that’s destructive and there’s no excuse for it. Those are criminal acts. And people should be prosecuted if they engage in criminal acts.'"
White House goes into lockdown as George Floyd protests in DC rage hotter
On Friday, CBS News reporter Weijia Jiang reported that the White House has now issued lockdown orders.
The development comes as protests against the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota have spread to Washington, D.C. and crowds are growing angrier. Earlier in the evening, a protester scaled the wall of a federal building and spray-painted an obscene anti-Trump message above a window.
The White House is currently under lockdown orders. https://t.co/LasnCIjkum