Jump to content

48,500 year old zombie virus revived from siberian permafrost, 'What Could Go Wrong'?

Recommended Posts

48,500 years old Zombie Virus Resurrected In French Lab..As the world warms up, vast tranches of permafrost are melting, releasing material that's been trapped in its icy grip for years. This includes a slew of microbes that have lain dormant for hundreds of millennia in some cases. 


To study the emerging microbes, scientists have now revived a number of these "zombie viruses" from Siberian permafrost, including one thought to be nearly 50,000 years old – a record age for a frozen virus returning to a state capable of infecting other organisms. 

The team behind the work, led by microbiologist Jean-Marie Alempic from the French National Centre for Scientific Research, says these reanimating viruses are potentially a significant threat to public health, and further study needs to be done to assess the danger that these infectious agents could pose as they awake from their icy slumber. 

"One quarter of the Northern Hemisphere is underlain by permanently frozen ground, referred to as permafrost," write the researchers in their paper. 

"Due to climate warming, irreversibly thawing permafrost is releasing organic matter frozen for up to a million years, most of which decompose into carbon dioxide and methane, further enhancing the greenhouse effect." 

The 48,500-year-old amoeba virus is actually one of 13 outlined in a new study currently in preprint, with nine of them thought to be tens of thousands of years old. The researchers established that each one was distinct from all other known viruses in terms of their genome. 

While the record-breaking virus was found beneath a lake, other extraction locations included mammoth wool and the intestines of a Siberian wolf – all buried beneath permafrost. Using live single-cell amoeba cultures, the team proved that the viruses still had the potential to be infectious pathogens. 

We're also seeing huge numbers of bacteria released into the environment as the world warms up, but given the antibiotics at our disposal it might be argued they would prove less threatening. A novel virus – as with SARS-CoV-2 – could be much more problematic for public health, especially as the Arctic becomes more populated. 

"The situation would be much more disastrous in the case of plant, animal, or human diseases caused by the revival of an ancient unknown virus," write the researchers. 

"It is therefore legitimate to ponder the risk of ancient viral particles remaining infectious and getting back into circulation by the thawing of ancient permafrost layers." 

This team has form for diligently digging up viruses in Siberia, with a previous study detailing the discovery of a 30,000-year-old virus. Like the new record holder, that was also a pandoravirus, a giant big enough to be visible using light microscopy. 

The revived virus has been given the name Pandoravirus yedoma, which acknowledges its size and the type of permafrost soil that it was found in. The researchers think there are many more viruses to find too, beyond those that only target amoebas. 

Many of the viruses that will be released as the ice thaws will be completely unknown to us – although it remains to be seen how infectious these viruses will be once they're exposed to the light, heat and oxygen of the outdoor environment. These are all areas that could be investigated in future studies.  

Virologist Eric Delwart from the University of California, San Francisco, agrees that these giant viruses are just the start when it comes to exploring what lies hidden beneath the permafrost. Though Delwart wasn't involved in the current study, he has plenty of experience resuscitating ancient plant viruses. 

"If the authors are indeed isolating live viruses from ancient permafrost, it is likely that the even smaller, simpler mammalian viruses would also survive frozen for eons."


View the full article

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Similar Topics

    • By USH
      A remarkable slice of ancient history has been unearthed beneath the depths of the Baltic Sea, marking a significant milestone in archaeological exploration. This groundbreaking discovery was serendipitously made in Germany’s Bay of Mecklenburg, during a routine student expedition. 

      Located approximately 10 kilometers (six miles) offshore, the team of researchers stumbled upon an intriguing anomaly using their multi-beam sonar system. 
      What they found was a sprawling, enigmatic wall extending nearly a kilometer along the seabed, nestled at a depth of 21 meters (69 feet). Detailed analysis has revealed that this colossal structure dates back over 10,000 years, potentially making it the oldest known megastructure built by ancient Europeans. 
      Comprising approximately 1,670 individual stones meticulously arranged to connect some 300 larger boulders, the structure hints at a deliberate construction, suggesting a specific purpose conceived millennia before being submerged beneath the sea. 
      Led by geophysicist Jacob Geerson from Kiel University, the research team has dubbed the discovery the "Blinker wall." They propose that it was likely built by Stone Age hunter-gatherers near a lake or marsh, serving as one of the earliest documented man-made hunting structures in history and ranking among Europe's largest Stone Age constructions. 
      Over millennia, Earth's geography has undergone profound transformations due to sea level fluctuations, erosion, and geological shifts, submerging countless ancient settlements beneath the waves and concealing their secrets. However, advancements in technology continue to unveil these submerged relics, offering invaluable insights into our ancestors' way of life. 
      While the precise function of the Blinker wall remains elusive, experts speculate it might have functioned as a hunting aid, possibly guiding reindeer herds. The construction's strategic layout suggests the intentional creation of bottlenecks to corral animals, with the potential presence of a second adjacent wall hinted at by the researchers. 
      Detailed examination of the structure's dimensions, composition, and alignment strongly indicates human involvement, ruling out natural formation. The team's analysis posits the Blinker wall's construction over 10,000 years ago, with submersion occurring around 8,500 years ago. 
      The significance of the Blinker wall extends beyond its age, promising valuable insights into the socioeconomic complexities of ancient hunter-gatherer societies in the region, illuminating their way of life and interaction with the environment. 
      Baltic Sea Anomaly.
      The Baltic Sea is full off ancient mysteries, not only the discovery of the ruins of the 11,000-year-old megastructure but also the discovery in June 2011 by Swedish OceanX diving team of an enigmatic anomaly displaying unconventional characteristics sparking speculation that it could be a submerged UFO. Despite the explanation behind the Blinker wall, the UFO-like anomaly continues to baffle experts, shrouded in mystery to this day.
        View the full article
    • By NASA
      NASA/Danny Nowlin Clouds of white vapor pile up at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi during a full-duration, 500-second hot fire of an RS-25 certification engine Jan. 17, 2024. This test series is critical for future flights of NASA’s SLS (Space Launch System) rocket in support of the Artemis campaign.
      During the Jan. 17 test, operators followed a “test like you fly” approach, firing the engine for the same amount of time – almost eight-and-a-half minutes (500 seconds) – needed to launch SLS and at power levels ranging between 80% to 113%.
      Image Credit: NASA/Danny Nowlin
      View the full article
    • By NASA
      Research scientists Sandra Vu, left, Natalie Ball, center, and Hiromi Kagawa, right, process BioNutrients production packs.NASA/Brandon Torres NASA’s bio-manufacturing experiment called BioNutrients is testing a way to use microorganisms to produce on-demand nutrients that will be critical for human health during future long-duration space missions. Launched to the International Space Station in 2019, the experiment assesses the stability and performance of a hand-held system – dubbed a production pack – to manufacture fresh vitamins and other nutrients in space over a five-year span.
      About once a year, scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley processed a set of production packs on the same day astronauts run production packs on the space station. This helps the researchers compare the performance of production packs stored and activated in space to those on the ground, providing data on how the space environment affects nutrient production over the five-year timeline. Demonstrating that NASA can produce nutrients after at least five years in space provides confidence it will be capable of supporting crewed missions to Mars.
      In early January, researchers Natalie Ball, Hiromi Kagawa, and Sandra Vu processed the last of a planned series of BioNutrients production packs hours after JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Satoshi Furukawa’s duplicate experiment onboard the orbiting laboratory. Samples from this in-space production are planned to return to Earth in February on Axiom Mission 3.
      BioNutrients was developed by NASA Ames. NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and its Game Changing Development program manage the project as part of the agency’s broader synthetic biology portfolio.
      View the full article
    • By NASA
      1 min read
      Hubble Views a Galaxy Settling into Old Age
      The galaxy NGC 3384 takes center stage in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image. ESA/Hubble & NASA/B. Lehmer et al. NGC 3384, visible in this image, has many of the characteristic features of so-called elliptical galaxies. Such galaxies glow diffusely, are rounded in shape, display few visible features, and rarely show signs of recent star formation. Instead, they are dominated by old, aging, and red-hued stars. This stands in contrast to the liveliness of spiral galaxies such as our home galaxy, the Milky Way, which possess significant populations of young, blue stars in spiral arms swirling around a bright core.
      However, NGC 3384 also displays a hint of disc-like structure towards its center, in the form of a central ‘bar’ of stars. Many spirals also boast such a bar, the Milky Way included; galactic bars are thought to funnel material through and around a galaxy’s core, which helps maintain and fuel the activities and processes occurring there.
      NGC 3384 is located approximately 35 million light-years away in the constellation Leo (The Lion). This image was taken using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys.

      Download this image

      Media Contact:
      Claire Andreoli
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD

      Last Updated Jan 25, 2024 Editor Andrea Gianopoulos Location Goddard Space Flight Center Related Terms
      Astrophysics Astrophysics Division Elliptical Galaxies Galaxies Goddard Space Flight Center Hubble Space Telescope Missions The Universe Keep Exploring Discover More Topics From NASA
      Hubble Space Telescope

      Since its 1990 launch, the Hubble Space Telescope has changed our fundamental understanding of the universe.

      Galaxies Stories

      Stars Stories

      James Webb Space Telescope

      Webb is the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It studies every phase in the…

      View the full article
    • By NASA
      This map of Earth in 2023 shows global surface temperature anomalies, or how much warmer or cooler each region of the planet was compared to the average from 1951 to 1980. Normal temperatures are shown in white, higher-than-normal temperatures in red and orange, and lower-than-normal temperatures in blue. An animated version of this map shows global temperature anomalies changing over time, dating back to 1880. NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio Earth’s average surface temperature in 2023 was the warmest on record, according to an analysis by NASA. Global temperatures last year were around 2.1 degrees Fahrenheit (1.2 degrees Celsius) above the average for NASA’s baseline period (1951-1980), scientists from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York reported.
      “NASA and NOAA’s global temperature report confirms what billions of people around the world experienced last year; we are facing a climate crisis,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “From extreme heat, to wildfires, to rising sea levels, we can see our Earth is changing. There’s still more work to be done, but President Biden and communities across America are taking more action than ever to reduce climate risks and help communities become more resilient – and NASA will continue to use our vantage point of space to bring critical climate data back down to Earth that is understandable and accessible for all people. NASA and the Biden-Harris Administration are working to protect our home planet and its people, for this generation – and the next.”
      In 2023, hundreds of millions of people around the world experienced extreme heat, and each month from June through December set a global record for the respective month. July was the hottest month ever recorded. Overall, Earth was about 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit (or about 1.4 degrees Celsius) warmer in 2023 than the late 19th-century average, when modern record-keeping began.
      “The exceptional warming that we’re experiencing is not something we’ve seen before in human history,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of GISS. “It’s driven primarily by our fossil fuel emissions, and we’re seeing the impacts in heat waves, intense rainfall, and coastal flooding.”
      Though scientists have conclusive evidence that the planet’s long-term warming trend is driven by human activity, they still examine other phenomena that can affect yearly or multi-year changes in climate such as El Niño, aerosols and pollution, and volcanic eruptions.
      Typically, the largest source of year-to-year variability is the El Niño – Southern Oscillation ocean climate pattern in the Pacific Ocean. The pattern has two phases – El Niño and La Niña – when sea surface temperatures along the equator switch between warmer, average, and cooler temperatures. From 2020-2022, the Pacific Ocean saw three consecutive La Niña events, which tend to cool global temperatures. In May 2023, the ocean transitioned from La Niña to El Niño, which often coincides with the hottest years on record.
      However, the record temperatures in the second half of 2023 occurred before the peak of the current El Niño event. Scientists expect to see the biggest impacts of El Niño in February, March, and April.
      This data visualization, which is updated monthly, shows the seasonal cycle of temperature variation on the Earth’s surface, and how those temperatures deviate from the average from 1951 to 1980. The data come from the GISS Surface Temperature Analysis and are publicly accessible here. The seasonal temperature offsets are based on the MERRA-2 reanalysis data here. NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio Scientists have also investigated possible impacts from the January 2022 eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai undersea volcano, which blasted water vapor and fine particles, or aerosols, into the stratosphere. A recent study found that the volcanic aerosols – by reflecting sunlight away from Earth’s surface – led to an overall slight cooling of less than 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit (or about 0.1 degrees Celsius) in the Southern Hemisphere following the eruption.
      “Even with occasional cooling factors like volcanoes or aerosols, we will continue to break records as long as greenhouse gas emissions keep going up,” Schmidt said. “And, unfortunately, we just set a new record for greenhouse gas emissions again this past year.”
      “The record-setting year of 2023 underscores the significance of urgent and continued actions to address climate change,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy. “Recent legislation has delivered the U.S. government’s largest-ever climate investment, including billions to strengthen America’s resilience to the increasing impacts of the climate crisis. As an agency focused on studying our changing climate, NASA’s fleet of Earth observing satellites will continue to provide critical data of our home planet at scale to help all people make informed decisions.”
      Open Science in Action
      NASA assembles its temperature record using surface air temperature data collected from tens of thousands of meteorological stations, as well as sea surface temperature data acquired by ship- and buoy-based instruments. This data is analyzed using methods that account for the varied spacing of temperature stations around the globe and for urban heating effects that could skew the calculations.
      Independent analyses by NOAA and the Hadley Centre (part of the United Kingdom Met Office) concluded the global surface temperatures for 2023 were the highest since modern record-keeping began. These scientists use much of the same temperature data in their analyses but use different methodologies. Although rankings can differ slightly between the records, they are in broad agreement and show the same ongoing long-term warming in recent decades.
      Building on a half century of research, observations, and models, the Biden-Harris Administration including NASA and several federal partners recently launched the U.S. Greenhouse Gas Center to make critical climate data readily available to decisionmakers and citizens. The center supports collaboration across U.S. government agencies and the non-profit and private sectors to make air-, ground-, and space-borne data and resources available online.
      NASA’s full dataset of global surface temperatures through 2023, as well as details with code of how NASA scientists conducted the analysis, are publicly available from GISS. GISS is a NASA laboratory managed by the Earth Sciences Division of the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The laboratory is affiliated with Columbia University’s Earth Institute and School of Engineering and Applied Science in New York.
      For more information on NASA, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/.
      Karen Fox / Katherine Rohloff
      Headquarters, Washington
      karen.fox@nasa.gov / Katherine.a.rohloff@nasa.gov
      Peter Jacobs
      NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md
      Last Updated Jan 12, 2024 LocationNASA Headquarters Related Terms
      Earth Climate Change Goddard Institute for Space Studies View the full article
  • Check out these Videos

  • Create New...