30,000 Year Old Siberia Virus Comes Back To Life

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30,000 Year Old Siberia Virus Comes Back To Life

There's more where that came from, says Professor Jean-Michel Claverie.

The pathogen Pithovirus sibericum lay dormant in the Siberian permafrost for 30,000 years, but became infectious as soon as it thawed out, say French researchers in a National Academy of Sciences study. "This is the first time we've seen a virus that's still infectious after this length of time," says Professor Jean-Michel Claverie of the University of Aix-Marseille, and he warns that exposing what lies beneath the permafrost is "a recipe for disaster."

Pithovirus sibericum destroys single-cell organisms. It invades the cell, multiplies and finally eliminates its host, but it is not capable of infecting a human. That was the first thing the team verified, after it discovered that the virus was active. It's called a giant virus because, unlike others of its kind, this one can be seen under a microscope. Pithovirus sibericum, at 1.5 micrometers, is the biggest giant virus known to man.

It lasted as long as it has because the permafrost is an excellent preserver; as an environment it lacks oxygen, is very dark, and very cold. The National Academy of Sciences study that discusses this event can be found here.

While the risk to humans from Pithovirus sibericum is nil, the team led by Claverie and Research Director Chantal Abergel believes there is a serious concern. After all, Pithovirus sibericum is still viable after 30,000 years; what else might also be hidden in the permafrost? Claverie describes it as "a non-zero probability that the pathogenic microbes that bothered [ancient human populations] could be revived."

"If you start having industrial explorations, people will start to move around the deep permafrost layers. Through mining and drilling, those old layers will be penetrated and this is where the danger is coming from." It doesn't help that, since the 1970s, the permafrost has reduced in size and thickness, and thanks to climate change is likely to reduce still further.

Though there are many thousands of viruses out there, the proportion of those viruses that can affect mammals, let alone humans, is vanishingly small. The chance that one particular virus which infected, say, Neanderthal man, and which could therefore affect us, lies out under the Siberian ice waiting to be unearthed is incredibly unlikely. However it would seem that incredibly unlikely is not quite the same thing as impossible, and Pithovirus sibericum demonstrates just how far from impossible it may be.

"At least a stock of vaccine should be kept, just in case," says Claverie and Abergel.

Source: BBC

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They dug too deep. When will people learn.

It's pretty crazy to think about though, 30,000 year old virus' wiping us out would just be embarrassing.

Then it adapts, jumps the species barrier and turns us all into zombies!

Somebody bring Michael Crichton back from the grave. He has a novel to write!

I read this yesterday before leaving work.

I then inexplicably went home and bought Plague, Inc.

Zombie amoebae mind viruses!

That aside, Plague Inc is actually rather fun. I don't care for all the "unlocking" though.

Sure, it's only infecting single-celled organisms now but one day it will jump to huskies. Luckily there is a documentary about this sort of thing.

We need to bring Snake MacReady out of retirement.

Karloff:

"At least a stock of vaccine should be kept, just in case," says Claverie and Abergel.

Just to clarify for those who don't follow the link to the BBC piece, the researchers are referring to the retention of vaccine stocks to Smallpox... Smallpox has been eradicated in the wild since 1977, but there a remote chance that there's a corpse somewhere, frozen in permafrost or similarly preserved, of someone who died of smallpox. In years to come, this body gets dug up and smallpox enters the wild again - potentially disastrous if vaccine stocks haven't been retained.

EDIT: Did a quick Google search and came up with this from 2008...

There is only one appropriate response for this.

image

Seriously though, the implications of this could go either way. Another thing that could lead to great achievements, or biological warfare.

Nice to see that the first step of my plan has succeeded. I'd tell you about step two, but then I'd have to kill you.

CriticalMiss:
Sure, it's only infecting single-celled organisms now but one day it will jump to huskies. Luckily there is a documentary about this sort of thing.

We need to bring Snake MacReady out of retirement.

Beat me to it. Darn you!

Goddammit Russia! First you invade Crimea, then you unleash prehistoric giant viruses, what's next?! Sharks with laser beams on their heads? Blocking out the Sun?

DocZombie:
Just to clarify for those who don't follow the link to the BBC piece, the researchers are referring to the retention of vaccine stocks to Smallpox... Smallpox has been eradicated in the wild since 1977, but there a remote chance that there's a corpse somewhere, frozen in permafrost or similarly preserved, of someone who died of smallpox. In years to come, this body gets dug up and smallpox enters the wild again - potentially disastrous if vaccine stocks haven't been retained.

EDIT: Did a quick Google search and came up with this from 2008...

Ah, that makes much more sense.

Hazy992:
Goddammit Russia! First you invade Crimea, then you unleash prehistoric giant viruses, what's next?! Sharks with laser beams on their heads? Blocking out the Sun?

Eh, they actually talked about the opposite of blocking out the sun a few years ago, if you recall, putting giant mirrors up to reflect sunlight onto the Earth.

thaluikhain:

Hazy992:
Goddammit Russia! First you invade Crimea, then you unleash prehistoric giant viruses, what's next?! Sharks with laser beams on their heads? Blocking out the Sun?

Eh, they actually talked about the opposite of blocking out the sun a few years ago, if you recall, putting giant mirrors up to reflect sunlight onto the Earth.

soooo...a death ray then...this is supposed to make us feel better how ? :P

Sleekit:

thaluikhain:

Hazy992:
Goddammit Russia! First you invade Crimea, then you unleash prehistoric giant viruses, what's next?! Sharks with laser beams on their heads? Blocking out the Sun?

Eh, they actually talked about the opposite of blocking out the sun a few years ago, if you recall, putting giant mirrors up to reflect sunlight onto the Earth.

soooo...a death ray then...this is supposed to make us feel better how ? :P

Sounds more like an anti-vampire-measure (which 'convientely' would erase night from existence).

Viruses aren't organisms so it didn't really "come back to life." It just remained viable.

So how swiftly till someone makes a movie of this situation?

It's gonna be one nasty cold virus!....ya know, cause it's frozen and.....things......

Nailed it.

[insert puns of low temperatures and diseases here]

Eldritch Warlord:
Viruses aren't organisms so it didn't really "come back to life." It just remained viable.

I was just about to get my angry stick out for this. Viruses are not alive - they can't come back to life. They can only become active. They can also go inactive as many of them do.

Could this be fixed because it make the writer look rather dumb.
Because he even quoted:

"This is the first time we've seen a virus that's still infectious after this length of time,

AndrewC:
Then it adapts, jumps the species barrier and turns us all into zombies!

actually form the description of what it does it would be more along the lines of the blob.

I betting people will now use this as a plotline for future horro movies.

nuba km:

AndrewC:
Then it adapts, jumps the species barrier and turns us all into zombies!

actually form the description of what it does it would be more along the lines of the blob.

You never know, could be blob zombies!

When will people learn? Unearthing ancient frozen shit will kill us all;

EDIT:

nuba km:

AndrewC:
Then it adapts, jumps the species barrier and turns us all into zombies!

actually form the description of what it does it would be more along the lines of the blob.

That doesn't make it any better :P

CriticalMiss:
Sure, it's only infecting single-celled organisms now but one day it will jump to huskies. Luckily there is a documentary about this sort of thing.

We need to bring Snake MacReady out of retirement.

Always a good use of The Thing but I was thinking it's a bit more like The Thaw

tacotrainwreck:
Somebody bring Michael Crichton back from the grave. He has a novel to write!

My initial reaction upon reading this was also: "Get Michael Crichton on the case!". Then I remembered that he's dead. Whoops.

Zombie virus, here we come.

Or at the very least we'll start seeing stories to feature this phenomenon coming out in the next few years.

CardinalPiggles:
They dug too deep. When will people learn.

It's pretty crazy to think about though, 30,000 year old virus' wiping us out would just be embarrassing.

Eventually the Balrog will come and they have to start their fortress all over again.

OT: Interesting discovery, but they should be careful to make sure that it doesn't contaminate something that it actually could infect. And that's the cold truth!

Scarim Coral:
I betting people will now use this as a plotline for future horro movies.

I could have sworn something like this was done for a older episode of the X-Files back in day....

OT: So does this mean I should go get my flamethrower out of the closet now? I forget, isn't this a concern about say we go to Mars and bring back a virus or something by mistake or am I thinking of a really bad sci-fi movie plot?

SinisterGehe:

Eldritch Warlord:
Viruses aren't organisms so it didn't really "come back to life." It just remained viable.

I was just about to get my angry stick out for this. Viruses are not alive - they can't come back to life. They can only become active. They can also go inactive as many of them do.

Could this be fixed because it make the writer look rather dumb.
Because he even quoted:

"This is the first time we've seen a virus that's still infectious after this length of time,

I went to look into this, and it seems that viruses are contentiously considered a form of life, or at the edges of the definitions of life, at least on wikipedia.

Are either of you virologists or biologists or otherwise educated who could elaborate further on this?

Space agencies have decontamination protocols in slim chance an alien disease is encountered. Yet, here we have people digging 10,000 year old mammoths out of the ice and trying to snack on them.

We already know that water bears can survive everything short of a point blank nuclear blast, and that 0.001% that of bacteria that soap and hand sanitizers are missing are getting stronger and multiplying. So, it's no stretch to think there's preserved pathogens waiting out there to be uncovered.

dalek sec:

I could have sworn something like this was done for a older episode of the X-Files back in day....

Season One, Episode 8. "Ice." Good episode.

the December King:

SinisterGehe:

Eldritch Warlord:
Viruses aren't organisms so it didn't really "come back to life." It just remained viable.

I was just about to get my angry stick out for this. Viruses are not alive - they can't come back to life. They can only become active. They can also go inactive as many of them do.

Could this be fixed because it make the writer look rather dumb.
Because he even quoted:

"This is the first time we've seen a virus that's still infectious after this length of time,

I went to look into this, and it seems that viruses are contentiously considered a form of life, or at the edges of the definitions of life, at least on wikipedia.

Are either of you virologists or biologists or otherwise educated who could elaborate further on this?

Viruses are really odd because they don't have any vital functions. They do not have any form of metabolism. - hence why they aren't considered to be "alive". By the definition that we have.

But viruses have DNA or RNA, that they inject to living cells that they turn into factories that produce more identical* virions. They basically are shells of genetic material. They reproduce and spread - so they can be considered to be "alive" because they have a biological function that they carry forward. *They even mutate and change over time and due to environmental pressure.

I think the definition are they alive or not depends on what you consider being alive is. Is it ability to reproduce - then even prions would be classified under "Alive" when they only really are proteins. Metabolism - Then it would set a clear line to certain pathogens and simpler life forms.

This is why viruses are one of the most interesting things in biology.

the December King:

SinisterGehe:

Eldritch Warlord:
Viruses aren't organisms so it didn't really "come back to life." It just remained viable.

I was just about to get my angry stick out for this. Viruses are not alive - they can't come back to life. They can only become active. They can also go inactive as many of them do.

Could this be fixed because it make the writer look rather dumb.
Because he even quoted:

"This is the first time we've seen a virus that's still infectious after this length of time,

I went to look into this, and it seems that viruses are contentiously considered a form of life, or at the edges of the definitions of life, at least on wikipedia.

Are either of you virologists or biologists or otherwise educated who could elaborate further on this?

All living things possess these 4 capabilities: response to stimuli, growth, reproduction, and the maintenance of homeostasis. Viruses do not grow or maintain homeostasis at all, their behavior is purely mechanical, and they only reproduce through hosts assembling copies. Possessing 0-2 (depending on semantic perspective) of life's 4 defining characteristics makes them very definitively non-living.

The debate only exists as it does because in a higher-order sense viruses seem like organisms so perhaps how life is defined should be changed to accommodate.

Didn't the Chimera virus from "Resistance" start in Siberia?

If you'll excuse me, it's time to go stock up on guns and ammo.

Not the most science-y guy here, how do they know how old it is? I want to learn something today :)

I thought this was a side effect of bringing back the wolly mammoths.

This is what happens when you dig too deep; Ancient Bacteria isn't something to be messed with. Isn't that how the plague came about when we mined too far?

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