French scientists are marveling over a 30,000-year-old virus buried in the Siberian permafrost.
In new research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it’s yet another ‘Frankenvirus’, or ‘giant virus’ (Mollivirus sibericum). It’s the fourth type of prehistoric giant virus to be discovered since 2003 – and the second by this team.
Researchers are concerned with their findings; the virus may come in contact with people in the face of climate change and melting ice the earth currently finds itself in.
“A few viral particles that are still infectious may be enough, in the presence of a vulnerable host, to revive potentially pathogenic viruses,” one of the lead researchers, Jean-Michel Claverie, told AFP.
The regions in which these giant microbes have been found are coveted for their mineral resources, particularly oil, and will become increasingly accessible for industrial exploitation as the ice continues to melt. This could be disastrous if there’re any more giants lurking underneath the ice.
“If we are not careful, and we industrialize 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,” Claverie added.
The Frankenvirus is longer than half a micron, or 0.00002 of an inch, which is why it’s a part of the ‘giant’ categorization.
The researchers plan to ‘revive’ the virus in a controlled laboratory setting, placing it in a single cell amoeba to research it closely.