Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Scientists revive ‘biggest ever’ virus locked in Siberian ice for 30,000 years

A Stone Age virus lying dormant for at least 30,000 years has been ‘successfully’ revived by scientists in Siberia. The newly thawed virus is the biggest one ever found. At 1.5 micrometers long, it is comparable in size to a small bacterium. Tests show that it attacks amoebas, which are single-celled organisms, but does not infect humans or other animals.

The pithovirus sibericum was unleashed from a 100ft deep layer of the Siberian permafrost. Though this virus poses no danger to humans or animals, the discovery has raised fears other more deadly pathogens could be released from the frozen ground. If it is true that these viruses survive in the same way those amoeba viruses survive, then smallpox is not eradicated from the planet - only the surface, Dr Chantal Abergel, a co-author of the report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences said. "By going deeper we may reactivate the possibility that smallpox could become again a disease of humans in modern times."

However, it is not yet clear whether all viruses could become active again after being frozen for thousands or even millions of years.

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