Science takes quite a lot of risky leaps for the good of mankind, and a 30,000 year old virus is about to be awakened after being found in the freezing colds of Siberia. There is the saying ‘don’t poke a slumbering bear’, but researchers have reassured that nothing could go awry for humans or animals by prodding at a potentially deadly giant and ancient virus.
Mollivirus sibericum, or otherwise called the “tender virus from Siberia”, was found in the permafrost of northeastern Russia, only a year later after the same team discovered another similar big virus in the same region. It’s the fourth prehistoric virus ever found since 2003, adding to a saga of already examined deadly agents.
The new virus, just like the Pithovirus sibericum found in 2014, is a giant virus that has been dated as far back as 30,000 years ago, able to easily infect amoebas, which posed as the control host for their study. A ‘giant virus’ is described as any who are larger than 0.5 microns (or micrometers) upon close examination.
The new Mollivirus sibericum stands at 0.6 microns, as discovered by the team of French and Russian researchers. It was isolated using four different techniques, genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and metagenomics, in order to make sure that it will remain highly contained and safe within the confines of their laboratories.
According to the authors of the study, it is able to reproduce in the amoeba, in a similar manner to the more well known viruses such as Adenovirus (which is attributed to the common cold), Papillomavirus, or Herpesvirus.
It has a reported number of 500 genes, which will undergo extensive examination before it will be revived. For the sake of a clearer comparison, the Influenza A virus (linked to human flu, bird flu, and swine flu) has only 8 genes, which further explains the sophistication and complexity of the new discovery’s structure.
Why would they poke and prod at a potentially dangerous virus? The answer lies in climate change. The permafrost in the Siberian regions are melting, and with it, there might be a slew of ancient viruses just waiting to be unleashed upon the world.
With extensive research, their consequences can be understood before that happens, which will give science a head start on potentially deadly infections.
According to one of the researchers, Jean-Michel Claverie, only a few particles are enough to revive a pathogenic disease if it finds a proper host, and if such challenging areas of Siberia are industrialized, deadly conditions like the small pox might be brought back to life.
It’s best that they are revived in controlled and quarantined areas on a Petri dish, rather than waiting for them to wake up on their own due to the weather changes in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions.
Image source: slate.com