Sunday, April 6, 2014

Scientists Dig up Giant Virus More Than 30,000 Years Old in Siberia

News Brief by Alice Chan

French and Russian researchers recently discovered an ancient virus, the Pithovirus sibericum, from frozen soil in the Chukotka Autonomous Region of Siberia. The Pithovirus is believed to have existed concurrently with woolly mammoths and saber-tooth cats before its 30,000-year dormancy in Siberian ice. In a press release, France’s National Center for Scientific Research stated that the discovery “shows how incomplete our understanding of microscopic biodiversity is when it comes to exploring new environments.” 

The discovery also implies the reemergence of other families of viruses. The thawing of permafrost in polar areas, resulting from climate change or mining, may potentially revive viruses that have long been considered eliminated (for example, small pox). Although the Pithovirus generally infects amoebas, other viruses with similar replication processes, if revived, can potentially infect humans and animals. Jean-Michel Claverie, a French scientist involved with this finding, further explained that these viruses may include “some that have caused planet-wide epidemics in the past.”

Mullen, J. (2014, March 6). Scientists dig up giant virus more than 30,000 years old in Siberia. CNN. Retrieved March 27, 2014, from
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